The manager, captain, fans and successful teams


Anyone who has watched Celtic in recent weeks knows the impact Jeremie Frimpong has on the team.  He alone has the ability to run at and past defenders, without him, Celtic are significantly easier to defend against.  This has been clear from recent performances and his absence from the starting line-up against Riga was my principle concern before the game.

He did not start last night because when we go three at the back, it is Jeremie or James Forrest on the right.  After the game Neil Lennon told us James has struggled with an ankle injury for a couple of weeks, leaving us with the classic ingredients for recency bias.  James’ recent injury-affected form has been below the standard or Jeremie’s.  But of all the occasions you could make a case to start James Forrest, European qualifiers will be the easiest.  He scores and creates goals in qualifiers at a prodigious rate.

Also, watchers of Celtic in recent seasons will know that Injury is the Mother of Invention.  Where would Ryan Christie be without Eboue Kouassi and Olivier Ntcham picking up first half injuries at Murrayfield?  Jeremie is now likely to get a run at Hibs and Sarajevo.  What happens in the middle of the park is more intriguing.

Scott Brown took a knock that will keep him under observation between now and the Hibs game.  That clip on Scott’s Achilles’ gives the manager lots to consider.  After Hibs, we have four hugely important games: Sarajevo, then after the international break: Newco, Aberdeen away and Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup semi-final.  The roster becomes significantly trickier if we overcome Sarajevo, as we would have two Europa League games before next month’s semi-final.

I read many asking, why does Scott Brown play practically every minute of every game?  It is clearly not that you have spotted something that escaped the manager’s attention, Neil Lennon does not have a blind spot that tens of thousands of Celtic fans can see through, so let’s not pretend otherwise.

You have been watching football all of your life, so you know by now that what you see on the field is only part of the story.  Any team: footballers, salesmen, network engineers or shop staff, need a common culture and leadership to reach their best.  What a boss gets from his or her line manager in frontline performance, in any walk of life, is not the entire contribution.

I have a friend who is also a customer.  He tells me what I need to do with my staff and I tell him the same about his staff.  Neither of us take the others’ advice, because I am using the resources I have to keep my team focussed on our objective and he is doing the same.  I talk to him about practically every personal aspect of my life, but I don’t even go into the detail of this stuff with him, because it involves personal details about others.  In very simple environments like mine and his, teams are complicated things.

I would like to see Jeremie start more games and I am really keen to see central mid re-jigged.  From my seat on the couch, both are crucial to our outcomes this season.  But I know there’s a ton of human dynamics in every team that outsiders are clueless about.  The manager needs to keep this indoors while suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous opinion.  It can be a tough gig.  It is good that we have all ‘been there, done that’, when it comes to building a winning football team, so none of us exist in a fantasy that we are the true fonts of wisdom Neil Lennon really has to listen to.  I mean, can you imagine thinking like that?  Jeez.

Have a great weekend.

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  1. It is actually the “faithful through and through” who question any critical thought who provide opinion without basis that jump on any perceived criticism of Lennon or Brown.



    Those with data and an analytical platform have been pretty unanimous to what is actually quite obvious if you have studied football. I’m just bored banging on about it.



    Celtic have the most talented squad but are wilfully playing with the midfield handbrake on. It might be good enough to beat bottle merchants, we might get lucky.

  2. Pingback: The manager, captain, fans and successful teams Paul67 - Celtic FC News Aggregation

  3. It doesn’t say much for the managers opinion of the rest of the players, if Scott Brown is the only one that he trusts as a leader.


    As much as I love Scott and regard him as a true legend, his time is coming to an end.

  4. The problem with that analysis is , if you admit that Scott’s Brown’s ever-presence is not purely performance related; then why is he there ? Some of the answers I’m reluctantly entertaining……………

  5. Celtic by numbers,



    Do you have enough data in the first 10 games or so to compare Brown 2020 against Brown 2016 (Rodgers first season)? Would be interesting to see if the numbers show a decline (I know your previous stuff has already shown that) but also the % decline. I would guess 20%.

  6. NIALLO83 on 25TH SEPTEMBER 2020 12:16 PM


    Celtic by numbers,







    Do you have enough data in the first 10 games or so to compare Brown 2020 against Brown 2016 (Rodgers first season)? Would be interesting to see if the numbers show a decline (I know your previous stuff has already shown that) but also the % decline. I would guess 20%.






    As mentioned between jucojames and myself it’s been done to death – see respective Twitter lines and seach on the site for Brown articles. I wrote about it 2 years ago and got bored repeating myself. The failure to succession play is appalling. But furthermore, there is real data and evidence that a Brown-less midfield of say McGregor/Ntcham/Christie is thrilling vs good opposition.



    A Brown coming on with 20 to go to close out games is also a good use of leadership and experience, for example.

  7. ROLLING_STONE on 25TH SEPTEMBER 2020 12:05 PM


    @ TIMALOY29 on 25TH SEPTEMBER 2020 11:35 AM




    “Interesting slant. When we concede chances we shouldn’t pay them any mind unless they result in a goal. When we create chances we should take them into consideration even if we don’t score. Have your cake etc.




    And yes, the quality of the SPFL teams we have played is very poor. The first decent team we played, we lost. That’s fair comment. Riga beat a semi-pro team from San Marino 1-0 in the last round of qualifying, so forgive me if a demur from calling them quality.”



    My point generally is, conceding chances will happen. I don’t think it’s a reasonable expectation we don’t.



    Riga beat FC Copenhagen there last season. Do we still want to pretend Copenhagen are a pub side?



    We went to their patch, controlled the game and got the goal. It’s a good result regardless.



    “Neil has spent £35m and we are scraping by. Has any Celtic manager been given that much money in such a short space of time? He won’t even play the majority of his signings.”



    Celtic’s spending was a net positive in his first year. About 6 million. This year we’ve spent about 9 million. I think we’ve been a bit more ambitious this season but Ajeti and Duffy already look great buys. Barkas still has a bit to prove but I haven’t given up on him by any means.



    Even if we haven’t received many fees we have got a lot of wages out the door.



    “Also, you are just lowering the standard constantly for Broonie. He kept the ball moving etc. I don’t get it either. No one here dislikes Broonie as a man, it’s just a recognition that playing a 35 year old for 90 mins 3 times a week, when playing poorly seems ludicrous.”



    He’s not been playing poorly every game. He’s not been playing 3 times a week. He had a rest at the international break. He was subbed off against Kilmarnock, Rejkavic and Ross County. Neil Lennon has already said he will be rotated.



    Do you really think he showed signs of fatigue last night?

  8. Edouard looked disinterested last night. He took a kick early on and playing up front himself he looked like he didn’t fancy it. Why Ajeti didn’t participate from the start or earlier from the bench is baffling.



    In a 3-5-2 the wing backs are so important. Neither Taylor or Forrest offered anything. The former isn’t good enough and the latter doesn’t do enough.



    As for Scott Brown, it’s really sad to see some reach the end. At 35 there isn’t much left in the tank. I get the impression the formation and personnel are selected to accommodate certain players. Make no mistake there are teams in waiting who will exploit this. The next month is beyond vital.

  9. Paul I have to disagree. It all depends on output, if your “Customer” had concerns with the customer service being provided then he could rightfully question your staff setup, and you should probably listen.



    Last night we were close to getting knocked out by a far inferior side. We have become predictable and one dimensional. Lesser sides sit back back and defend their 18 yard box and we have no answer. Superior teams come out and attack us and we roll over and get thumped.



    So whatever Brooney brings to the team clearly isnt working. You can point to the fact we got the win last night, but we have been knocked out at Champions league qualifying the last 3 seasons for this exact reason.



    Brooney is a leader and undoubtedly brings so much to the team behind the scenes. But there comes a time where this contribution should be left behind the scenes on the training ground and dressing room. It happens to all good team captains -but clearly not Brooney

  10. Tin hat on….



    I’m in a complete minority (maybe even a one man minority) but I absolutely hate 352 as our primary formation. We won a treble treble and topped a European group last year playing 4231 and for me a variation of 4231/ 433 is a much better starting formation.



    352 allows you 3 in midfield so you don’t get overrun and 2 up front (i.e. striking position is strengthened). However, it weakens either the backline (one less defender) or wide positions (depending if the wide player is attacking or defensive minded). Also because the central midfielders have to cover the wings, so we are not left two on one, you can’t really play with a 10.



    I loved our line of 3 when it was Johnston/ Elyounoussi, Christie and Forrest playing off Edouard. This formation was working great but got very stale before Christmas last year. We came back from Dubai and started with 352 and our form picked up dramatically. However the previous year when Rodgers was here the exact same thing happened before Christmas (2018). We went to Dubai and came back and starting hammering teams then too. I would argue the break refreshed the team rather than simply 352 being some sort of saviour formation.




  11. Lennon clearly doesn’t have a blind spot that we’ve spotted?



    In the same article as you say Forrest has been carrying a knock for weeks and yet continued to get in the team?



    And if Frimpong is the ONLY player in the squad capable of beating people we have big problems indeed.



    Honestly, that is one of the jumbled, garbled, pieces i’ve read on this site.



    And the central thesis – that Lennon’s loyalty to Brown is something mere mortals can’t understand – is, I’m afraid to say, absolute cobblers as well.

  12. Blind spot or not, Lenny has favourites who he trusts and whom he will not drop unless they need limb amputation. Nothing too unusual about that.


    Problem is those favourites are in a slump at the moment and making our play turgid and one-dimensional.


    Last season Ajer looked like he could be a leader. He shouted at, cajoled and rallied the team on numerous occasions. Calmac should be able to do likewise.


    Every party comes to an end regardless of how good it was. Broonie has been immense, but the music has stopped, the lights are on and the taxis are outside.

  13. ROLLING_STONE on 25TH SEPTEMBER 2020 12:29 PM



    “Against a team playing every man behind the ball, you really need to question the benefit of playing SB who, as you recognise, creates nothing.



    We need a central player who can pick up the ball and make foward passes. All SB can do in that regard is pass it back to CBs or wait for CalMac to drop deep and take the ball off of him.”



    That’s a tactical debate worth having. Riga didn’t literally sit behind the ball for 90 minutes. They tried to break several times and Scott Brown stopped the counter (getting a nasty tackle as well out of it)



    I do think there is a benefit in having somebody positioned where he was to recollect the ball and nip counter attacks in the bud.



    Maybe CalMac can do that but the sample size is small.



    “If not, we end up with 3 CBs, GT and SB who offer very little going forward to break down a team with everyone behind the ball. No wonder we struggle to break teams down.”



    The Taylor wing-back problem is really separate from this. I don’t think we should be playing attacking players in every other position just because our LWB struggles to be creative. We should be looking for a more attacking option in that position and I understand its the priority.



    Brown does allow his CB teammates to venture forward as Sheffield United have done so successfully. Ajer has been particularly effective in creating chances from CB. Jullien has even scored a strikers goal this season.



    I’m not going to write McGregor off as being unable to do Brown’s job. But I do need to actually see it more.





    Maybe just once mix it up and see how it goes instead of playing out the same team to similar performances time after time.

  14. Hi Paul



    3-5-2..wingers are key critical



    JF is great raw talent, but he runs down more dead ends than not. Hes raw and needs coached. On the other wing GT pings in the odd good cross, but the majority of time will return the ball from where it came from .Hes no better (or worse) than Johnny Hayes



    When you have your star player way off form (OE) and your marquee singing looking like he is well short (Duffy), you don’t need to look to far for why we have these poor performances



    No Damage done apart from CL, but we do need to improve all over the park

  15. …..☘️☘️☘️☘️….








    …☘️……………. ☘️




















  16. Thanks CBN.



    I would also like to see a McGregor, Ntcham and Christie central midfield… part of a 4231/ 433:-P



    Although, if we are being honest i think there is a good chance Ntcham will go next week.



    If both him and Ajer leave for 25m combined surely we will sign two replacements and a LB. That would mean we would be close to balanced on transfer fees for window (26m in, 14m currently out and another three (CM, CB and LB) 4m players in after the sales

  17. Some find it galling that Paul would sometimes point out that we haven’t all played & coached professional football and aren’t working with all the information Neil Lennon works with.



    Everybody is entitled to their opinion and nobody is above criticism. But I’m sure it’s not just me who feels that the negativity surrounding a winning team is quite frankly overwhelming.

  18. It was turgid. It was dire. But we win.



    In fact, under Lennon we tend to win somewhat more than under any other manager we have had.






    I do find myself questioning nearly every team selection and substitution that me makes.



    In the spirit of if-you-don’t-play-you-get-better I think we miss Mikey.



    And Moi must have come back injured from internationals not to have started a game. Thankfully he only needed a few minutes last night to put the world to rights.

  19. THELURKINTIM on 25TH SEPTEMBER 2020 11:10 AM


    Big Jimmy…no apology necessary…health first…always another time. Tho I think you keep spelling pints as pills lol. Take care mate ;-))




    I am so glad that you saw my Posts on the least Thread, and thanks for your understanding. I have had to lie down again most of this morning due to being a wee bit unwell and Ive just been woken up by a Phone call from one of my old Aunties who I havent seen/spoken to since around 2017.


    She is in her 80’s and still drives her car and she went into my local Pub around 30 minutes ago, to try and “Track me Down” ?


    I havent spoken to her since 2017, cos I had lost my previous phone and her number, but during one of our last phone conversations I had told her roughly where I was staying, and I havent seen her since around 2008.


    She gave me some great news…my DAD is still alive..although he is now totally blind. I havent seen or spoken to my DA since 2008, when I visited him in hospital after he became very unwell and was going blind. Sadly, since then I havent been able to visit him because of my Ratbag Step Mother who wont allow me in HIS House !


    She has hated me since she met my Da when I was around 5 or 6 year old.


    Its a long story, but my Auntie is gonna phone me back when she gets home Today, as I couldnt see her right now because I am NOT even dressed or shaved yet, due to feeling unwell Today.


    Hopefully, I can now meet her and my other favourite Auntie ( My Da’s sister) sometime next week and take them both for a Cuppa and Cakes ?



    I couldnt invite my Auntie and her niece into my home Today anyway cos of the Covid, and I wasnt dressed or shaved etc to go onto the street.



    At least I now know my auld Da is still alive and asking for me…No.1 son LOL. He doesnt understand when my Aunts tell him that I am NOT allowed in his house due to that Evil, Twisted Step “Mother” for all these years.


    My auld Da, drove to Lisbon with about 7 or 8 mates in three Cars…Lisbon was a Jolly Bhoys Outing…thats why he never took me…the auld Bassa LOL. !



  20. As expected Riga’s tactics in defending their unbeaten home record in European competition was to bunker down in their own half of the field – all was missing was a surrounding moat – to repel the marauding Celtic hoards.


    Everything was going to plan for the Latvians until commander lennon sent for his special forces in Frimpong, Ajeti and Ellio and immediately the defensive lines were breached.



    Ajeti almost twice had the ball in the net in a heavily trafficked goalmouth but for freaky saves by the Latvian ‘keeper after wonderful play by Frimps.


    It was the brilliant Frimps again and Ellio combination breaching the sturdy Latvian wall to put Celtic into the play-offs.



    The match did not make pretty viewing but perhaps it should be remembered that Celtic’s away record in Europe if we discount the dead rubber against Cluj, has been very good of late. Now for the Hibees

  21. James,



    That is a very good article on Brown. Only comment i have is that Soro doesn’t look like he has what is needed. He seems a small tidy player but that is about it. Obviously we haven’t seen a lot of him so that may be completely wrong.



    If we ended up selling Ntcham and buying a replacement i would by a “6” for Brown’s position and not an “8” like Ntcham. Both McGregor and Turnbulls play best as 8’s. Turnbull may have played a bit of 10 for Motherwell but he won’t be a skillful enough 10 for us. He will be a good 8 though!!

  22. Timaloy29,



    See my comment above to James. You are right. If Ntcham leaves Turnbull will be his replacement. We can sti use the money to buy a new 6 to compete with Brown

  23. Timaloy29



    ” the negativity surrounding a winning team is quite frankly overwhelming ”



    It’s not just you, but don’t get overwhelmed mate, this is it when we’re effectively top of the SPL and have just won a tricky away Europa tie, what will they post when we lose a game.



    Season ticket holders have walked the walk, it’s not asking so much for the hesgoalimothies and water cooler Tims of the internet to shoulder a bit of trust, keep their personal favourites, to themselves and back the manager.



    Either back Celtic to ten in a row or be off with them, we have enough ‘outsiders’ putting the boot into Neil Lennon, Scott Brown and Celtic.

  24. playing Ayer and Taylor in front of him on the left is complete and utter madness , we have no left side and the opposition are well aware of this , this must be rectified before the window closes or we could be in the sh**.

  25. Very strange article today. Patronising in places, plain wrong in others. Of course we cannot observe the private dynamics of the squad and, critically, the relationship with the manager and coaching staff but it is glaringly obvious that there are problems and have been for some time.


    We see strange tactical decisions repeated despite evidence of flaws. We see a left back playing as a winger when we have an expensive winger on the bench. We see caution prevailing when what we are capable of is fast, attacking, penetrating football. We see two strikers on the bench but only one on the pitch.


    I’m concerned about Neil Lennon and find it hard to be too critical as, like me, he suffers with depression. He has looked in bad shape recently and is way overweight. He needs support and encouragement but his selections, tactics and stubborness to resist substitutions long after it is obvious the system is not working makes it difficult to understand what he is thinking. Critically, his view that we played well in Riga is fantasy.


    We don’t have insight on what’s happening at Lennoxtown but we can see what’s (not) happening on the park.

  26. Back to Basics - Glass Half Full on

    Really liked this one Pablo.






    Your very candid insight into your own approach to leadership made me smile.



    In very tactful language you really said – outcome oriented professionals focus on the outcome and ignore the “yap”!! 😆



    One point I would make ….



    I quite like Neil Lennon.



    Lots of different people (Dermot, Martin O, Peter L and even other managers) tell of how intelligent, analytical, open minded and even humourous he is.



    Let’s assume the above is true.



    If so, one aspect of Neil’s leadership urgently needs attention.



    His projection.



    Martin O’Neill was the personification of authority



    Gordon Strachan was the personification of control.



    Brendan Rodgers was the personification of calm.



    If Neil projected just a little more calm, control and authority, lots of the “yap” (including on here) would either stop or lose its resonance.



    Hail hail



    Keep The Faith

  27. Paul you say we chose JF over Frimpers even though he has been carrying an injury . Is that not when we should be making the most of our big squad ? That is favouritism , no two ways about it. Frimpers can easily get past men and hit the byeline……exactly what is required when playing teams who sit behind the ball. Its not rocket science . We get nothing down the left side of the team in these kind of games because Taylor who is a tidy player struggles to put a ball over and usually comes inside , passes back and we have to start all over again . Broonie ( Legend) needs to be managed over a whole season as he is getting on a bit, no shame in that . We work our team around a few players regardless of their form and we suffer because of that . NL ( Legend) needs to up his game quickly . A couple of weeks ago when he played RC up front for the second time he was trying to prove a point that his tactics were the reason we are once again out of the big cup , Time to grow up Neil. We have by far the most talented squad of players in Scotland but I worry that Neil doesnt have the ability to make the most of it , he needs to act fast on this one or this could be a disaster of a season . Rangers aint great but they have a determination about them that makes them very dangerous

  28. Great to see you on CelticbyNumbers and we owe a massive thanks to yours and Jucojames analysis. Sadly, like many on here, our support has large numbers in the luddite category who cling on to their mythical intangibles when debating the merit of a player’s contribution.



    Paul67, thanks for your site but your management anaology belongs to the museum of horrors mate. The idea of so-called clever managers coercing talented workers into the blindingly obvious has been debunked for decades mate. Like the workplace, we have an abundance of talent so let them flourish in the right system, not have a middle manager (like Scott) run around waving and shouting like they need that. It’s a fallacy.



    From last night:



    The back 3 played 334 of our 716 passes!


    Brown passed the ball 6 times to Callum, 4 to Ollie, 14 to Taylor and ZERO to Frimpong, our danger man.


    Left, left, left with nobody in the middle.



    Well-organised, limited teams have our number.



    Our goal came from breaking that tactic through a quick turnover ball from Barkas…and going right through our dangerman.



    Not confident we are learning….




  29. and have just won a tricky away Europa tie



    dearie dearie , Riga are a very poor team and if our level of performance from the management and players last night is acceptable from some of the season ticket holders then heaven help us.

  30. lets all do the huddle on

    its been mentioned a good few times before and during various important games this season



    our bench is stronger than our starting eleven



    until that is addressed then we will continue to struggle in games like last nite – if we are now describing that as a tricky away tie then we are admitting that our main starting 11 are an average europa league side let alone champions league hopefulls



    i agree, i think thats all they are



    but i think we have players who dont get a regular game that could raise us to a higher level



    but it doesnt look like the manager has the bottle to leave certain players out in important games to make that happen let alone give them a run in the team to get them up to match speed. and i dont just mean 1 player. the guts of that starting 11 needs routed



    that attitude cannot end well



    and it would be no wonder that those looking on from the bench would be seriously pissed off with the situation, watching that shite and not getting a start

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