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State of the Club Report, December 2018

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Empires rise and fall but it is usually not until well after the event that the signs of decline or rise are appreciated.  In April 1970 Celtic players took a lap of honour after winning both legs of the European Cup semi-final against English champions, Leeds United, before a record European crowd.  They were in their second European Cup final in four and hot favourites to take the trophy again.  If ever Celtic looked imperious, this was the moment.

Few watching that lap of honour could have imagined 33 years would pass before Celtic next beat a side from one of Europe’s biggest five leagues.  Decline came slowly, a European Cup final loss in extra time, two more semi-final appearances and four more league titles, then decades as an irrelevance in Europe.

Today Celtic are nothing like that force in Europe, but 2018 saw the club secure the domestic treble for the second successive season, the first time this has been achieved in Scottish football.  They also retained the League Cup this month and are hot favourites for both league and Scottish Cup.  No team has ever been this imperious in Scottish football, not even the Lisbon Lions.

Celtic have lost four league games this season, four more than they lost in the whole of Brendan Rodgers’ first season.  They failed to reach the Champions League group stage, losing to what proved to be a poor AEK Athens.  This year has seen significant players lost: Dembele, Armstrong and Roberts.  Although the latter two were mostly squad players when by the time they left, they still made important contributions.

The club broke its transfer fee record for the first time in 17 years to secure the permanent signing of Odsonne Edouard, but the deadline day shenanigans of Dembele and absences of Leigh Griffiths placed a heavy burden on the 20-year-old.  Filip Benkovic was secured on loan from Leicester City but further attempts to reinforce central defence and the right back position have been ineffective, while the predicted signing of John McGinn from Hibs proved to be nothing more than a PR disaster.

Form during the early part of the season was well below standards of the previous two years.  It was not until two first half injuries in the League Cup semi-final at Murrayfield to Ebouie Kouassi and Olivier Ntcham allowed Callum McGregor and Ryan Christie to take up central midfield roles, that Celtic started to play with fluency.

Three wins were secured in a very difficult Europa League group, meaning we travel to Valencia in February with a fighting chance of progressing, but you could sense the air escaping from Celtic during December, as eight points were dropped on top of a home defeat to Salzburg.

The question is, was Saturday’s arresting defeat at Ibrox a sign of Decline of Empire, or another sign of retrenchment?  To answer that we need to look at the fundamentals.

Celtic are financially stronger than anyone else in Scottish football.  We spend significantly more, not just on transfers and wages, but on scouting, sports science, analysis and any other metric you care to mention.  We may only be top of the table on goal difference, with a game in hand, but the first leg of the treble is complete and we are the only Scottish team still in Europe.
This season, the rest of the league are getting closer, but if points earned is their measurement, they are not getting any better.  Celtic’s lead is small, not because we face better opposition, or because we have fewer resources, but because some in the squad have aged and declined, while attempts to strengthen have not been good enough.

If you are searching for signs of Decline of Empire, keep looking.  This is Celtic at the bottom of the curve – with back-to-back trebles, the League Cup secured and resources available to kick on.  We cannot win every game, or play well every month.  We can’t even win every trophy, but the fundamentals of Scottish football have not changed.  Use this week to get in touch with how it feels to be second best in a domestic game.  It could be a while before it happens again.

Have a great New Year.

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  1. Let’s face in bhoys most of us are fed up with the never ending stream of loans and projects we are signing. Loans are fine as a short term option or as long as we have an option to buy should the player turn out to be any good. Sadly seldom the case and it doesn’t reflect well on our academy. Remember we had a chance to sign Benkovic before he went to Leicester but baulked at the transfer fee. Now he is being touted as the next VVD. Had we taken a risk, albeit a big risk, we would have a gold mine of a player that we could / would make a huge profit from in a season or 2? Yet we still struggle to find decent CB/ CH and happily spent £1 mill + wages on a CB who hasn’t kicked a ball since he arrived, a CB that is so good Jack Hendry makes the bench before him?

     

    Our acquisition of projects has in the main proved to be a disaster. Only one ‘real’ project has proven to be an asset and that was big Vic W. Despite what some say neither VVD nor Moussa were projects. Moussa was banging in the goals at Fulham and Virgil was playing football at a fairly decent level with Groningen in the Netherlands. We robbed both Fulham and Groningen there- good scouting pays off! Didn’t we pay Groningen close to £3 mill for Virgil’s services- a princely sum for Celtic to pay?

     

    We should balance the acquisition of projects with the signing of quality experienced players regardless of their sell on value. I am not talking about the Hayes or DDV of the football world. Circa £1 mill these days buys you a Jonny Hayes or Marvin Compper. Neither of who is anywhere near the required quality of footballer that should be wearing a Celtic jersey. Stop faffin’ about Celtic forget the old mantra of every player must have a resale value unless we have basically paid heehaw for him. Get some real experienced talent in, difficult but not impossible – Lubo & Henke for example. But the main priority must be SORT OUT THE SCOUTING, seek and you will find.

  2. Not you Breeny.

     

     

     

    Our tactics are base don tempo.

     

     

    If the tempo’s high, everything clicks. You don’t even notice the kepper’s distribution because the ball’s at him and away quick to hungry players dropping into space to set up another forward movement.

     

     

    The tempo is dictated by the outfield players.

     

     

    If we cannot strike a good tempo, shite like the Huns can get at us.

     

     

    All the finest teams we’ve played – common denominator is the pace they set, that tempo we managed to match v Leipzig at home but struggle to bring to away fixtures.

     

     

    Starts in the players’ heads- they need to be switched on and buzzing from the off. Too many times this season we’ve fallen into a doze, believing we can control a game by playing slo-mo keep-ball from the back.

     

     

    The opposite is true – control the game by zipping it around and chasing the hope out of the opposition.

     

     

    Saturday was criminal.

  3. TONYROME 1-12PM

     

    Don’t think we would be allowed a trip to OZ without the good ladies somehow !!

  4. South Of Tunis on

    Big Judith

     

     

     

     

    Totally passes me by . Did have a conversation re her with the mad mental ottogenarian Inter codger from down the valley – he said — “I’d have to be very drunk ” .

     

     

    Here’s a fairly typical Italian one –

     

    https://youtu.be/KEXKvhF-wnk

  5. Call_of_Juarez on

    Fitba is a daft game. Not many on here would have predicted that Christie would have become an integral part of the team and many tbought Mulumbu was a decent signing but he hasn’t kicked a ball. There are not many certainties in the transfer market at our level.

  6. CHAIRBHOY @2.03

     

    Thanks for response. I think you illustrate what is part of the problem, coaches are always copying the tactics of the most successful coach, when Barca were top then every club in the world starts playing tippy tippy football. Guardiola gets rid of England no.1 Hart and replaces him with a ball playing goalkeeper, so everybody starts to copy. But there is only one Messi (Barca) and our goalkeeper certainly does not have the ball playing skills of the top goalkeepers. You cannot make players do what they are not capable of doing, as I watch Celtic every week we lose or almost lose a goal a game because the coach wants the defence to play a style that they are not capable of playing and it is all because that is how the best teams in the world play but we unfortunately are not. Play to your strengths, don’t try fantasy football.

  7. Most managers have favourites, players who get picked regardless of how poor their last game was.

     

    Lustig and Sinclair are Brendan’s. Craig Gordon next in line.

     

    I would have said Brown too but until recently he was our most consistent player so deserved to be the first name on the sheet.

     

    When Brendan goes out and about, speaks to supporters, speaks to friends and colleagues, I wonder if people ever tell him what they really think. Or does everyone become tongue-tied in his presence and tell him everything is wonderful? I find it hard to believe he does not see these players failings, or that the other coaches don’t see it either. It’s one thing to ignore the “internet bampots” and reporters with an agenda, but most of the 50-60,000 season ticket holders are in agreement with which players are damaging the team’s progress and which areas we need to strengthen. Yet for two and a half seasons we have failed to address the problems.

     

    The biggest disappointment for me in the last 2 seasons remains the failure to build on his first glorious season. He had everyone on board with his vision. He charmed the knickers off us. He got mediocre players to look Celtic class. He had us playing with pace, passing with accuracy and scoring for fun.

     

    We are a pale imitation of that now.

     

    We may still be, on our day, the best team in Scotland but something is not quite clicking. We do not have any God-given right to dominate and win every game, but we should not be misfiring like we are in almost every away game this season.

     

    Here’s hoping the break is used to iron out the kinks and reinvigorate the players.

     

    A few days practicing throw-ins, corners and free kicks would be a good start.

  8. DENIABHOY

     

    Yes good post, I would add Forrest into your Manager favourites, 1 good game in 10 and anonymous in the others is not good enough

  9. BREENY@1-29

     

    Certainly in size of club and prestige Celtic are a far attractive proposition than Kilmarnock.

     

    But going from head coach to assistant is not.

     

    Also when looking at Kilmarnock’s league position he is doing a great job and has no reason to leave unless a head coaching job is available at a better club.

     

    And as i stated Brendan is the head coach and his own man.

  10. Silver City 1888 on

    Decisions on Morelos, Naismith and McGregor by the Video Review Panel make VAR and professional refs thoroughly pointless. Resolution 12 isn’t about the past. It isn’t about hunting down a dead club. It is about ensuring that there is honesty in the current game.

  11. FAN-A-TIC

     

    YES I am only considering what would be good for Celtic, not suggesting Rodgers would be up for it but I do think they would compliment each other well.

  12. Back to Basics - Glass Half Full on

    Feels like cabin fever abounds on here.

     

     

    Nice day for a walk.

     

     

    Seven domestic trophies competed for.

     

     

    Seven domestic trophies won.

     

     

    I’ll take that weakness every time.

     

     

    At the risk of being ageist – are some of you too young to remember Liam Brady as Celtic manager?

     

     

    Hail hail

  13. Breeny

     

    Maybes if you back up your statement about all the failures Brendan has brought in, I will back up mine, deal, after all it was what you said that prompted me to post.

  14. Exiled Tim

     

    You said nothing in your post, scroll back for all my comments whether you like or not they are there

  15. DENIABHOY

     

    Good article.

     

    Your statement of us being a pale imitation of Brendan’s first season rings especially true.

     

    The ignoring or refusal of coaches to address the dead ball situations is a particular worry.

     

    Do they not see/ refuse to see it or are they simply incapable of which would be really concerning as it’s been a problem for at least a season and a half?

  16. Breeny

     

    You are posting stuff that is blatantly untrue to attempt to justify your dislike of our manager.

     

    BREENY on 2ND JANUARY 2019 12:08 PM

     

    The big question is why were some of these players brought in at some expense and never given a chance ? The finger must be pointed at whoever brought them to the club not at the players themselves: Compher, Arzani, Allan, Benyu, Mulumbu, Musonda , Hayes, De Vries, Izaguirre (part 2), Morgan etc.etc. Even Roberts spent more time on bench than playing, terrible terrible.

     

    Incredibly poor recruitment and Rodgers is accountable, no wonder Lawwell is loathe to give him more millions to spend with that track record

  17. Exiled Tim @ 2.48

     

    You say I am posting stuff that is blatantly untrue? Please tell me why the manager wasted all that money on players he doesn’t rate enough to play, what a waste of money.

  18. prestonpans bhoys on

    Dickson Huns financial director got a £22k bonus, still laughing at that one, what was their loss last year???

  19. BREENY @2-16 to CHAIRBHOY

     

     

    Thanks for response. I think you illustrate what is part of the problem, coaches are always copying the tactics of the most successful coach, when Barca were top then every club in the world starts playing tippy tippy football.

     

     

    In all walks of life imitation is used with varying degrees of success.

     

    Many of the coaches who try to emulate others system’s fail to apply/see the detail required to relict successfully.

     

    Ability of players is also a factor.

     

    Talking systems is easy but having them work on the field of play requires total understanding and attention to detail.

     

    I have stated for years that Guardiolas system is easy to nullify and recent losses for them were down to opposing coaches using same tactics that have denied Pep European success for 7 years.

     

    Was surprised it took so long for EPL coaches to use the tactic but Sarri and Hodgson are experienced and well prepared coaches.

  20. For the hard of understanding I will repeat my comment :

     

     

    The big question is why were some of these players brought in at some expense and never given a chance ? The finger must be pointed at whoever brought them to the club not at the players themselves: Compher, Arzani, Allan, Benyu, Mulumbu, Musonda , Hayes, De Vries, Izaguirre (part 2), Morgan etc.etc. Even Roberts spent more time on bench than playing, terrible terrible.

     

     

    Incredibly poor recruitment and Rodgers is accountable, no wonder Lawwell is loathe to give him more millions to spend with that track r

  21. IMHO

     

     

    Arzani is injured

     

     

    Comperr injury prone & bottler

     

    Morgan – one for future

     

     

    Roberts got injured & went back to man c

     

     

    Team ploughin on to 2nd treble. Hard to get in the team.

     

     

    Sinclair has been poor for most of this season

     

     

    DE Vries – backup

     

     

    Hayes – backup at best

     

     

    Whos to blame for Pukki ?

  22. BREENY on 2ND JANUARY 2019 3:05 PM

     

     

    Compher, – didn’t work out, BR takes the hit

     

     

    Arzani, – unproven and injured

     

     

    Allan, – Deila/Lawwell signing

     

     

    Benyu, – project that hasn’t worked

     

     

    Mulumbu, – wouldn’t be there if Lawwell closed Mcginn deal

     

     

    Musonda , – came with big rep but bad attitude, sent back after 3 months

     

     

    Hayes, – made sense as squad player plus damaged Aberdeen, significant rival

     

     

    De Vries, – made sense, had good rep, didnt really work but pushed CG hard

     

     

    Izaguirre (part 2), – good for diddy teams but exposed at higher level

     

     

    Morgan – too early to say

     

     

    All in all not as bad as you say. Plenty of good signings made by BR too. BR deserves some decent cash to spend on first 11 players. The nature of projects and cheap buys is such that quite a few wont work out and we end up stuck with them. £10m would have secured Mcginn and Piccini. We need to invest some decent capital now.

  23. Big Georges Fan Club - Hail, Hail, Wee Oscar on

    SOUTH OF TUNIS on 2ND JANUARY 2019 2:10 PM

     

    Here’s a fairly typical Italian one –

     

    https://youtu.be/KEXKvhF-wnk

     

    ====================

     

     

    No wonder the sun comes out to play in Italy more than it does here – jings !!!

     

     

    Me and Wee BGFC approve :-)))

     

     

    HH

     

    BGFC

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