Three again outshines four at the back


Celtic were at their scintillating best as they hit St Johnstone with a treble of goals in the opening 26 minutes; the home team were fortunate the score was as low as three when Leigh Griffiths volleyed Greg Taylor’s cross into the net.

The link-play between Odsonne Edouard and Griffiths, as well as the crossing from Taylor and James Forrest set the tone.  The silky pitch encouraged Callum McGregor and Olivier Ntcham to display their range of passing, but for me, the formation is the most consistent predictor of Celtic’s performance.  When we play three at the back we play better than when we have a back four.

On Saturday we play on the bumpiest acre of Lanarkshire, so Neil has my sympathies in having to decide how to approach that game, but I would make last night’s formation the default from now on.

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  1. Paul, 3 at the back works great against most domestic opponents.



    Play 3 at the back in Europe and we will get torn to shreds. Very few of the top 15 teams in Europe play 3 at the back.



    The correct formation to play with is some sort of 4231/ 433 variation . Unfortunately for us we have struggled to find the right mix in midfield playing these formations recently. This is to do with personnel as opposed to the system itself

  2. Got soaked but well, well worth it.



    That was the best I’ve seen Leigh Griffiths play for a long time. Not just his goal. His touch, hold up play and linking with Eddy was outstanding. The 2 of them worked brilliantly together.



    We Shall Not Be Moved.

  3. The Blogger Formerly Known As GM on

    Which Celtic will we see most often between now and the end of the season: first-half Celtic or second-half Celtic?



    The answer will have a huge baring on the league trophy.



    Maybe they took their ‘foot off the gas’ or the pitch condition became progressively worse over the course of the match, but for me the key differences between the first and second halves were personnel and formation.



    Maybe many of us have been looking at the wrong things and its being able to field consistently a decent back 3 that hold the key to 9 and 10.

  4. Hate to sound like a broken record but I’d like to see better finishing. We can’t keep saying “could have been 5 or 6”



    Kilmarnock away, St Mirren away, Hearts away, Hibs home and Aberdeen home.



    Missed loads of chances in them all.

  5. Up early today Paul!


    I’d rather we played the best formation for domestic games that results in us playing fast, attacking football week in week out, rather than play a formation that suits CL football but means week in week out we play slow, side-to-side possession football (as we did in BR’s final 1-2 seasons). We still get papped in Europe.



    2nd half last night was a reminder of that, we’d be 25 yards from their goal and 2-3 passes later the ball was back with FF.



    Does anyone keep a record of the number of games per season our players are unavailable due to injury? Amazing how many just seem to go from treatment table to match fit then back to treatment table within a couple of games or so.




    Combination of a few things.



    We definetely had our foot off the gas


    We made a sub as a precaution that didn’t get the best out of the team. Forrest at number 10, Brown as a CB, Bauer as a WB


    They tried to do damage limitation. Bringing on the experienced Craig and McCart (a CB)


    We had to go 10 mins or so with 10 men

  7. macjay1 for Neil Lennon on

    Neil has been criticised in the past for his refusal / inability to change a formation which is not working.


    Apparently , last night , he was forced to do precisely that.


    He will have learned from that and will be in a better position to adjust team formation in future.

  8. Very strong first half performance last night and a real statement made after being handed an advantage on Sunday.



    During the first half almost every player was on their game. Edouard was dropping into the 10 position and it opened up the game. The midfielders were moving the ball so quickly and we loaded the box at every opportunity. The 3-5-2 allows us to whip crossed into the box quickly and the deliveries were outstanding. It was hard to pick out a star player but being at the game I was in awe of McGregor, he was all over the pitch and moving the ball so quickly, backing up his teammates in possession and driving forward. His touch and awareness and ability to go through the gears left St Johnstone in bits. For 45 mins I thought he was incredible.



    When we switched to 4 at the back we lost momentum. Whether that was because of the tactical switch or because the players dropped gears is unknown. Food for thought for Neil though.

  9. Will be pleased to see young Luca Connell go out on loan. Barnsley and Sunderland quoted.



    I think it’s also the right decision to keep Dembele at Celtic. He doesn’t look physically ready to play against grown men in the English League One. He’s still only 16 and will benefit from training with the first team, playing reserve games and getting the odd cameo.


    I’m also sceptical of their motivation. Are they simply just trying to turn his head? They must be able to see he’s not ready for first team football. I’d be worried with him down there. He’s got connections to London and a lot of top academies looking at him.

  10. The Blogger – I think both Elhamed and Biton can play comfortably in a back three, as can Jozo, Julien and Ajer. But it means the midfield selection becomes even more difficult – do you play two defensive wing backs like Frimpong and Taylor, or two wingers like JF and MJ (or Arzani, Shved etc,). Do you play two up front and one wide player (like last night)?


    On recent showings, I’d lean towards Frimpong and Taylor but would Neil drop JF and MJ when fit?



    Most top teams have a far more settled starting XI and style of play than we currently do. Maybe 9-10 certainties week in, week out. Be it through injuries or not, we don’t seem to be able to field the same team on a regular basis.

  11. The Blogger Formerly Known As GM on

    Deniabhoy – I agree, but ‘consistently’ was my operative word. El Hamed, Bitton and Jozo appear to be permanently injured.



    In an ideal world I’d have El Hamed, Bitton and Jozo in that order. Both El Hamed and Bitton look more comfortable with the ball at their feet.



    I don’t see an issue further up the pitch, merely an array of choice, which is no bad thing.



    How’s the weather looking? I’m out your way in a couple of weeks. The Rates and Tudons beckon:-0

  12. The weather, like our team, is hard to predict at moment. Seems to be settling again though. 20 degrees most days this week. Are you staying in Denia area or Calpe?

  13. The Blogger Formerly Known As GM on

    20 degrees would do just fine.



    We base ourselves on the outskirts of Benidorm. Works well and is a bit cheaper.




  14. John Hartson


    201 Games for Celtic


    110 Goals


    Leigh Griffiths


    224 Games for Celtic


    110 Goals Goals

  15. Fix Fitba: Empty Hampden……………



    ……of any McNuggets who think its a guid idea for professionals to play fitba on lumpy, textured linoleum…………..




    Well done to The Bhoys last night. I continue to spare myself the blood pressure issues associated with Shorties output and that seems to be working out well.



    Thanks To This Dear Green Place.




  16. Been a proponent of 3-5-2 for years. Little point of playing 1 up front domestically so 2 up top much preferable and likely to result in more goals.


    With that in mind, the 2 wide men in a middle 5 need to function as wing backs which means tracking up and down the wide areas, defending like full backs and driving forward and providing crosses into the box like wingers.


    How many of our current squad fit that bill ? Is the call for another winger or a full back the way forward or should we be looking for or developing ‘wing backs’ ?

  17. The Blogger Formerly Known As GM on

    Et tu, Bankie?



    I fell off the wagon briefly on Sunday afternoon, tuning in briefly for a laugh at full time, but I’ve not been on the BBC Scotland website this year.



    Indeed, blood pressure and mood are much improved.

  18. My kind of `supporter `”





    With Rogic, Christie in the wings, El Yonoussi back in training and Soro shortly to join the first team, we have a core of quality players who will carry us through to 9.`

  19. ….GM



    My missus says I’m like a new signin’………. :)



    The worst by far is that fraud Big Packy……awful charlatan.



    As for Shortie I’ve a soft spot for the Beeb ( nationally) and love the wireless so it’s a wrench not to tune in.



    Back The Bhoycott! :)



    Cheers and HH……..

  20. Niall083,



    Liverpool,in reality,only play 2 at the back.The 2 backs are pushed up so far,they become 5 in the middle,leaves them the 3 up front.Of course the quality of the players involved is a bit special.3-5-2 ,as you say,should work a treat for us in Scotland ,with the players we have.

  21. I also though Calmac was terrific last night.His 1st touch is wonderful at times.It just looked to me that the players enjoyed this formation.Jamesy thrived ,midfield had a ball,Taylor was outstanding.Looked as though they were enjoying playing it,as we were watching.

  22. Playing this system would also suit Boli,as the left side of the 5.He will never be a traditional LB,but this would suit his style of play.Gives us so many options of using the squad to full advantage

  23. I think some of our early success of the 3-5-2 is down to the fact we’ve played the same formation for a number of years, we’re now giving the opposition something different to set up against.



    2 upfront with Leigh returning to form means plenty of goals. Elyounoussi, Christie and Rogic will have significant roles to play as well.

  24. Well, yes…



    But we were blowing teams away earlier in the season playing one up front and four at the back



    It’s just good we hopefully now have the option of doing both




  25. I think Hamilton’s plastic is the worst of the 3 in the league. Doubt we’ll see Jozo so 3-5-2 may not be an option for Sunday given our current lack of fit CB options.



    We’ve had two very narrow wins over Hamilton so nothing can be taken for granted.



    I’d continue playing Leigh and Edouard, we could move Edouard out to the left on Sunday if we go for a flat back 4.

  26. Some of the criticism on here last night was unfair. After a brilliant first half of football, we were entitled to take our foot off the gas slightly and it would seem that Jozo’s injury forced Lennon’s hand in regards to the formation.



    On that note, it was rumoured that we were offered around £5m for Jozo in the summer and I suggested we bite their hands off…..I was told it’d show a lack of ambition and it’d cost that to replace him.



    While he’s not the worst defender we’ve seen at the club, he’s by no means the best either and with his injury record, I think £5m for him would be daylight robbery. Pretty sure those kinds of bids won’t be back again for him.

  27. Love the idea of two up front in the three at the back line up and it does give us better striking options obviously, but Liverpool ,who are a reasonable side!!!, usually play 4-3-3and it is great to watch.



    Heard a breaking news story. Brechin City in swoop for More or less,





  28. I watched the game and was on CQN after it.



    I never witnessed over the top criticism. Many of us rightly pointed out that our magnificent first half performance was not replicated in the second half.



    We set the standard in the first half.



    Is that wrong for stating the obvious.



    HH to all.

  29. GEEBEE1978 on 30TH JANUARY 2020 12:39 PM



    There’s absolutely no way Celtic turned down £5 million



    They accepted a £4 million bid from Torino once!

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