Tactically abject. We can do better


Congratulations to Brendan and the players, last night’s results makes it virtually certain we will qualify for the knockout stages of the Europa League. This tournament will give us peer-level competition into next year, Uefa coefficient points and could see income hit (drumroll) NINE figures for the first time.

While the wider context of last night was positive, the performance in Paris was tactically abject. In successive seasons we have conceded seven goals away to the top seed in our Champions League group. The total of 12 conceded to PSG this season contributed to them achieving a new record of all-time top scorers in a group stage, despite having only played five games.

I love the football we are watching under Brendan as much as you, but we are singularly unprepared to face opponents who perform at a higher level than us. This issue has nothing to do with our lowly league, or the calibre of players we are able to recruit, or even their endeavours during the game, it is about tactical choices.

Last week I watched Sweden resist Italy for 90 minutes at the San Siro. Sweden were awful, they couldn’t string two passes together. It was an exercise of attack v defence, but whenever the Italians turned one man in a yellow jersey, another two would descend upon him. There was no space inside the box, no overload of unmarked strikers fighting each other to latch onto a loose ball.

The contrast to the acres of space we allowed PSG last night is stark. While this is a great PSG team, one who have a good chance of going all the way in the tournament, this result is exceptional, even for them. No one in French football has conceded as many as seven to them this season, nor did a poor Anderlecht side.

The reason for this is not that the weaker French sides are all better than Celtic, it’s that they pack their penalty box, as we used to do, when facing top teams in the Champions League.

Think back to how Neil Lennon’s team pulled narrow at the back to deny Barcelona, with Lustig, Ambrose, K Wilson and Matthews in defence. Or how Gordon Strachan’s teams twice kept Milan, out for 90 minutes, with defences of M Wilson McManus, O’Dea, Naylor at home, and Caldwell, Pressley, McManus and O’Dea at the San Siro.

None of the defenders Strachan used would get into this Celtic team, nor would Efe, Kelvin or Adam Matthews. The key difference between the respective outcomes is not personnel, but tactics.

I loved the confident way we played for the opening 8 minutes but I also knew what we were in for as soon as PSG started making passes. We are, by a magnitude, not good enough to take the game to PSG in this manner. They found it very easy to carve us open and score, and as soon as the goals started raining in, that early confidence evaporated.

Instead, we played most of the match looking unsure and exposed. Any development opportunities had to be crammed into an 8-minute period, after that, it was just brutal. It wasn’t even down to poor individual performances. In fact, several players did very well, they were just tactically abandoned.

After Gordon Strachan took Cafu, Maldini, Gattuso, Seedorf, Pirlo, Kaka, Inzaghi & Co. all the way, Milan went on to beat Bayern Munich, Manchester United, and Liverpool in the final. Don’t pretend this PSG team are significantly better than that Milan team, because it is just not true (I could argue the opposite). Nor are they better than the Barcelona team Neil Lennon beat 2-1 and lost by the same score.

The key difference between now and then, is that Gordon remained haunted by his first dreadful result as Celtic manager, as was Neil, who was schooled 4-0 by Utrecht in his first season qualifiers, whereas Brendan’s equally dreadful debut result did not impose the same need to learn a lesson.

There is beauty in defending, so let’s learn to do it well.






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  1. Still hurting but realistic.


    I am also one of the ” it is what it is ” times change, football changes, the world changes, the ones who are suggesting we walk away cos it’s corrupt are really living in lala land, everything is corrupt, the whole world is corrupt, we play in a corrupt league which is administered by corrupt officials, should we walk away from that as well.


    This bloke is correct…….IMO



  2. 6 BHOY




    “it is what it is”. – you should be ashamed.



    Why? Because I go to Celtic Park to cheer on my football team, and you chose to walk away? Im missing something here tell me what a should be doing that would please a malcontent like yourself, although I doubt you can, but let’s just pretend you know what your talking about, how do I lift this shame? Enlighten me?




    Will you be at CP for the Scottish Cup tie versus Brechin City?

  3. traditionalist88 on

    tonydonnelly67 on 23rd November 2017 10:40 am



    My only motivation is not wanting us to be humiliated again. Its happening too often now.



    On another night they could have hit double figures.



    There are proven methods to stifle these teams or at the very least make them work for it.



    When we first qualified for the CL I was worried about these kind of beatings. It never materialised but in recent times its becoming a feature.




  4. Back to Basics - Glass Half Full on

    Good article Paul. Fair and well balanced.



    In the cold (sober) light of day it is still a tough one to take.



    However the wider outcome might just prove to be positive.



    A solid no nonsense defender in January?



    A slight rethink tactically against the very best next season.



    93% football / 7% blood and snotters?



    Also looking on the bright side, at least none of us is Vladimir Weiss.



    Hail hail





    Aye,there is beauty in defending,but you as much as anyone over the years have pointed out that we only have so much money to go round,and we have to use it wisely.



    Our main three centre-back options of Simunovic,Sviatchenko,Boyata-with capable back up in Bitton,Lustig,Tierney-is more than enough for all but four matches a season.



    That’s when we face teams who are capable of destroying teams no matter who they have in defence.



    Sure,they won’t perform to their best in every other match,but who does? It makes no sense at all to burst the bank for players who probably won’t make the difference in those big games.



    Virgil couldn’t,and he’s the best we’ve had in years.



    A well-drilled six-old coaching manual formation!-with three in front probably wouldn’t have worked either.



    Short of a sniper in the stands,that was the only outcome last night. Seven was overly harsh,but don’t blame Celtic for the way the CL is now structured.



    Gradual improvement in personnel seems to be the game plan,but even a decade of it won’t change our chances in this system.



    Meantime,take the money,improve where we can,enjoy what we have. Shrug our shoulders at certain times and hope for the occasional miracle!!!

  6. GlassTwoThirdsFull on

    A lot of polarised views last night re how we should play in these games.


    As far as I know you are allowed to defend well without having to park the bus.


    Same mistakes over and over in these games. Ball-watching, not seeing off-the-ball runs, letting your man get goal side, slow reactions.


    At the first goal Boyata completely lost Cavani, who would have had a tap-in at the back post if Neymar had crossed rather than shot.


    Most of the goals had some element of poor play from us. The strange thing is we always seem to have plenty players in the box when the goal is scored.


    You can’t go up against teams of this quality and make it even easier for them. Once they get a couple of goals ahead they go all out attack knowing that it doesn’t matter if they concede one.


    We don’t look as if we train the defending side of the game. We don’t seem to defend as a unit. Doesn’t appear to be a leader or organiser.


    We have been unlucky with the draws, when you look at some of the other groups. But we are making it more difficult than it needs to be.



    In terms of the playing style it may come right in the long term, but now I don’t know if the players are comfortable playing that way against top quality opposition. If the guys out on the park aren’t confident in what they are being asked to do it isn’t going to end well.


    I’d like to see us playing more condensed, getting the ball forward quicker at times and getting in behind their defence. We have players with pace who could do this.

  7. we admire Brendan to the core, and the football we have been playing in Scotland for the last 12 months, but he made his first crucial mistake last night, in realising the game was in Paris and not Scotland. These humiliations are just happening too easy, Christ we nearly got one in Astana back in August. My only releif last night was that PSG didn’t score 10.



    My point is a simple one, is Brendan asking players to do things at this level that we simply cant do? 3 tankings in one year says we are. Why not park the bus when IT IS REQUIRED Brendan? I’d rather that than been laughed at all over Europe

  8. Sadly I have to agree with Paul’s leader but in doing so there is a dilemma.


    Brendan has been a wonderful Manager on the domestic scene. The brand of Football we play is exciting & a joy to watch. The crowds are back, the Trophies are stacking up & the records are tumbling but there is a big BUT.


    Brendan not only refuses to change his style for European games he shouts if from the roof tops that he won’t change it. So what to do, do we stick with Brendan & go on & win ten in a row or do we kick him out & bring in a tactician that will make us ‘ hard to beat’ in Europe.


    I know what my answer is.

  9. glendalystonsils on

    For me, it wasn’t just the 7 goals they scored, it was the manner of them. It suggested that ,if the match had lasted another 10 minutes, it could have been 9, such was our disarray.


    I’m not a park the bus fan (I see enough of that against us domestically) but I agree about being far too open.


    We were pressurised into mistakes, sure, but there were also far too many unforced errors and ballwatching was a factor in a few of the goals.


    No doubt this was due to nervous exhaustion as the second half wore on, but by that time we had contributed to our own undoing.




    Sorry but the game last 90 mins, its in the rules, so no extra 10 mins. As for ‘nervous exhaustion’ it was fitba the were playing, not Russian roulette. Sheesh.

  11. Good analysis by Paul. Anderlecht have conceded fewer goals against PSG. Their results against Bayern are identical to ours, though they played with ten men for most of the game in Munich. We’ll go through to the Europa league, probably with more points than Dortmund for example. And there’ll be something closer to a level playing field there. But even in the Europa League our defensive frailties will be exposed. As Paul67 suggests it’s not so much about the individual defenders, more about tactics and our poor ball retention away from home – but that’s been a problem for a long time.

  12. The problem is not that we have poor defenders or even that BR got his tactics wrong. Its the fact is we dont play teams of this calibre often enough. We are not used to being under the cosh for such long periods. WE pretty much boss the game whoever we play in Scotland. When was the last time we had a really difficult game? We might have the odd off day but thats usually down to us not the opposition. We might be invincible in Scotland, but nowhere else thats a fact.

  13. Neil Lennon & McCartney on

    BARNEY64 on 23RD NOVEMBER 2017 11:29 AM



    You claim to identify the problem ~ what do you think is the solution?

  14. Good article , Paul.


    BMCUWP hit the nail on the head. At the end of the day, it was a sore one for sure. But, it was 3 points only. Had we parked the bus, it still would have been 3 points to them, albeit not 7 goals but 3 points nonetheless.



  15. TONYDONNELLY67 on 23RD NOVEMBER 2017 11:36 AM


    Oft, even Paul’s blaming Brendan Rogers for the CL being bent, I’m outa here.




    Before you go TD, don’t forget to answer the question I asked earlier:-



    Will you be at CP for the Scottish Cup tie versus Brechin City?

  16. SHEIK YERBOUTI on 23RD NOVEMBER 2017 10:20 AM





    Your right about “Comedy Defending” last night….So what about young KT ?


    He got “horsed” a few times…do we just give up on him and sell him ?


    Do we tell Brendan…” Thanks mate…but your to blame for the comic defending…you’re sacked” ?



    I don’t like get gubbed like that any more than the next man however……our back four last night consisted of at least two young players ( KT and Boyata)….we had Jozo who obviously wasn’t match fit…and we lost Mikeal after less than 20 minutes, and were forced to play Nir Bitton at right back….not forgetting the pace and movement of the PSG players thru our midfield…coupled with some schoolboy comic errors especially in our midfield which invited PSG onto our defence….it is obvious that to get better in the CL we will have to spend more money from January or next summer………


    But should that very same Celtic team hammer Mudderwell on Sunday by 4….5 or 7 goals, will any of us be moaning and greetin ?



    As for the CL being corrupt….thats correct….should we withdraw from that competition on moral grounds, and therefore denying us the money to improve ?


    IF yes….then we should also withdraw from the SFA and SPFL competitions as they are also corrupt……who do we play next then ?


    Where is any incoming revenue gonna come from ?


    How are we supposed to improve if we don’t take part in these corrupt competitions ?



    I would love to know the answers to the above…can anyone shed any light ?



    Even if Celtic joined the EPL tomorrow….do we refuse to take part in any UEFA competition ?

  17. thomthethim for Oscar OK on

    Football is basically a game of mistakes. The team who make the fewer invariably win.



    In tennis you hear terms like ” forced error” and ” unforced error”.




    In football,the ” pressing game” is the tactic to deny players time to pick their pass or to compose themselves for a shot.




    Another tool in the box is quick, interchanging movement around the penalty area.




    PSG, like Barca, are masters of this.




    They did to us what we do to lesser teams.



    They moved us around until we were dizzy. The defenders brains got frazzled by the movement and ended up totally demoralised.




    3-1 was the crucial time in the game. Had we got a goal back then, we would have re- energised.



    Didn’t happen, they got the next goal and after that it was a case of how many they wanted.




    That situation happens often in football. We have been on both ends of it.




    I agree that attacking PSG’s pedigree wasn’t Brendan’s finest moment.

  18. traditionalist88 on

    Lets not over complicate things.



    If you open up and press a great team but you dont possess the same quality you are going to get a battering.



    If you choose to keep things tight – LB as close to the left CB at all times, same with the RB and right CB – 5 in midfield scrapping for every ball, taking turns to support a lone striker – you WILL make PSG work a lot harder to score a goal than if you leave glaring gaps by pressing high and then seeing your defenders push up out of position as a result. It stands to reason if they have to work harder for a goal they’re not going to score as many. Plus it means if there is an individual error its more likely to be mopped up by one of our players than Kylian Mbappe or Cavani.



    PSG average 3.3 goals per game in France – they got 5 and 7 against us, and it could have been more.



    This phrase ‘park the bus’ was a throwaway remark from an EPL manager a couple of seasons ago which now carries a real stigma in the football world. Remarkable, really. What does it mean in practice? I can see why Man Utd get criticised for doing it when they market themselves as the biggest club in the world but if we are playing PSG we can’t play our normal game because it is not a normal game.



    We NEED to adopt a more defensive mindset in such games going forward because these humiliations are damaging on many levels – demoralising for all involved, increases the chat about closed shop CL, runs down Scottish football, etc.




  19. glendalystonsils on

    BARNEY64 on 23RD NOVEMBER 2017 11:12 AM



    The point about the hypothetical extra 10 minutes is that they had us by the throat and it could have been more than 7. And maybe Russian roulette is not a bad comparison -))

  20. TONYDONNELLY67 on 23RD NOVEMBER 2017 11:36 AM


    Oft, even Paul’s blaming Brendan Rogers for the CL being bent, I’m outa here.







    Well at least you haven’t called him (Paul) a hun.



    You must be mellowing in your auld age.

  21. Ernie,



    From the last blog. You make a very valid point about the way that PSG are financed.



    I agree, but we have also used our owners wealth to bankroll players wages. I can think of three that I know of and I totally back the move if circumstances permit.



    A much smaller scale I agree but if It’s legal and if our majority shareholder wants to personally use his own money to better the team , I see no problem; I welcome it wholeheartedly.



    It is what it is.




  22. I watched the CL “Highlights” late last night.


    That Chump Roy Keane and that bigger Chump Glenn feckin Hoddle were agreeing that PSG could have scored between 12…and 15 goals last night.


    Other than Celtic scoring at least 5 own goals to make 12….or scoring 8 own goals to make it 15 for PSG……………How were PSG capable of scoring 12 never mind 15 goals ….when the “only” had 10 efforts at goal ?



    As I have asked before…why is this nutter Glenn Hoddle allowed on our tv screens after his disgraceful comments and beliefs about people who are disabled which cost him the England job ?



  23. GlassTwoThirdsFull on



    Some good posts on the previous blog. Agree with pretty much all you said there.

  24. Jock Stein when asked how important it was for Celtic to do well in Europe replied –



    “As long as we are kinkpins in our own midden anything else is a bonus” or words to that effect.



    Lots of posters here today Brendan this and that……………..but……….



    You’ve been found out.






    A bit disappointed with your post.



    You can only defend if you have defenders.



    We don’t.



    We don’t need to defend in Scotland because we have so much possession against poor teams in games here, so defending is alien to some of the players.



    The back 4 last night are all flawed including the new messiah KT.



    I don’t believe it would have made much difference if we’d parked the bus last night.



    We probably would not have scored our goal for a start.



    Perhaps a strong Rang*ers would have meant we were better prepared.

  25. 50 shades of green on

    PSG were 2nd seeds Paul, Bayern Munich top seeds.



    Other than that a decent article.




  26. GREENPINATA on 23RD NOVEMBER 2017 11:50 AM



    There’s a quantitative and qualitative difference.



    The Great Desmondo has a cultural connection to, and an emotional investment in, Celtic.



    The state of Qatar has no such connection to PSG. They could have invested in a number of other clubs and achieved the same results.



    It’s tawdry. It cheapens and diminishes the game. Anything PSG win will be tainted.

  27. traditionalist88 on

    GlassTwoThirdsFull on 23rd November 2017 11:53 am



    Thanks – I just think we have too many people advocating that we continue to do the same things that will ensure we get a bigger hiding against certain teams. For what reason? Its just too damaging on many levels.



    I just think its better to play certain players a bit further back and closer together, essentially! Theres nothing to say you can’t counter attack. But taking the game to them… you risk losing 6/7/8/9 goals as opposed to the 3 PSG average in France, for example,







    Clearly we need better opposition on a weekly basis, now that will mean we dont win every week. We’re just not getting tested often enough, we’re very rarely even a goal down these days. Great, some might say, just shows how good we are. But isnt it all about competition? Dont they say competition for places spurs players on to become better? Surely the same applies to teams? We played an exceptional team last night, they might be the best of the best even. I dont think we will come up against another like that in the Europa. Until UEFA applies its own rules regarding financial fair play these teams will continue to exist, thats the way it is. I dont have a solution is the short answer.

  29. 50 shades of green on

    Whilst we competed in some parts of the games against Bayern we were never confident of getting a result,We started poorly against Anderlecht, how many on here thought that Ollie looked out of his depth until that wonderful pass to KT?.From then on we settled Anderlecht looked like a beaten team there and then.



    Paris are on a completely different level, I think this Celtic team will be able to compete against most other teams, but this mob are away above anything we can reach at the moment.

  30. Paul67, you speak the truth. when all is said and done, and I Love Brendan Rodgers, we should have done a Sweden on it.

  31. BIG JIMMY on 23RD NOVEMBER 2017 11:42 AM









    Your right about “Comedy Defending” last night….So what about young KT ?



    He got “horsed” a few times…do we just give up on him and sell him ?



    Do we tell Brendan…” Thanks mate…but your to blame for the comic defending…you’re sacked” ?



    As for the CL being corrupt….thats correct….should we withdraw from that competition on moral grounds, and therefore denying us the money to improve ?



    IF yes….then we should also withdraw from the SFA and SPFL competitions as they are also corrupt……who do we play next then ?



    Where is any incoming revenue gonna come from ?



    How are we supposed to improve if we don’t take part in these corrupt competitions ?



    I would love to know the answers to the above…can anyone shed any light





    I have seen anyone suggesting Celtic should withdraw from the CL so you are just making that up.



    My suggestion was the club should be looking to build alliances with clubs in the same predicament as ourselves to form a bloc that can challenge the corruption that exists within Uefa. The elite clubs aren’t going to do it as they are the beneficiaries of a rigged competition designed to limit success and most of the money to them and them alone.



    Do you think the fans of other clubs in Europe are any less satisfied with the way the CL is operated by Uefa? I suspect not and I think we would be pushing at an open door if only the club had the will to do so.



    As for the corruption in the domestic game, we have challenged this and won in the past – Farrygate for one. More’s the pity we don’t challenge it now to the same extent.



    The big difference between Scotland and the CL is we are where we are through our own efforts whereas the most of the elite clubs in Europe get where they are because Uefa gives them an open door to the CL group stages and ignores their own Financial Fair Rules when they are bank-rolled by mega-rich states and corporations.



    You can either accept the TD67 doctrine “It is what it is” or demand the club be at the forefront of a campaign to rid football of corruption where-ever it is to be found. After all, it is the Celtic way isn’t it?

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