Having removed any remaining shred of doubt that the league title would be heading to Celtic Park for an eighth successive time a week earlier, the most important aspect of the game against Livingston was to prepare the team for this Sunday’s Scottish Cup semi-final against our perennial Hampden opponents, Aberdeen.
Neil gave starts to Filip Benkovic, Tom Rogic and Ryan Christie, each still working towards full fitness, while Kieran Tierney got a further 90 minutes under his belt.
Despite the avalanche of chances, there was plenty not right about Sunday’s performance. Three central defenders did not work (again). Neil benefited from this experiment by Brendan Rodgers at Easter Road in December. Livingston played a straight 7-2-1 formation, leaving Dolly Menga drowning in green and white hoops for most of the game, but a consequence was that Celtic were heavily outnumbered in and around the Livingston box.
I think we need a three at the back option; being too predictable has been the downfall of Celtic teams before, so it is worth pursuing this strategy in certain league games between now and the end of the season.
An additional negative consequence of three at the back was the inefficient functioning of midfield. Scott Brown did not drop into his normal deep-lying role, as he, Callum McGregor, Christie and Rogic struggled to maintain a recognisable shape.
This line-up is the most creative we have fielded in months, and while we forced Livingston keeper Liam Kelly into 11 saves, none were outstanding. Our game plan is to pass and move in order to drag defenders out of position and create space. When this does not work, we would normally look to Rogic to shoot from the edge of the box, but Tom is still leggy and never looked likely.
The other alternative, of course, is to have a Hartson-type target man. John was a player of his time who would not fit into the modern game, but with him on the field, you had a devastating goal threat whenever you could launch a ball into the opposition box.
There is a lot of work to do in the summer, but I would like a proper target man added to the list.