We won the cup, so what now?


Neil Lennon will have learned enough on Sunday to give him pause for thought.  After wins over Lille and Kilmarnock, we shipped three goals, conceded additional good chances and confidence shattered all too easily the moment Hearts scored their first.

For me, the remainder of our season truncates into the next four games; four more cup finals, if you like.  The plan for these fixtures has to be right.

There is no longer a debate about our best defensive formation; moving Kristofer Ajer to right back gives the team a far better shape.  This means playing Christopher Jullien and Shane Duffy in central defence.  As you may have commented through expletives on Sunday, these two are not a partnership.  Not yet, anyway; they have three games to change that.

I vacillate on left back preferences.  Greg Taylor is currently the manager’s first choice, if so, play him in each of the four games ahead.  If Diego Laxalt gets the nod, give him the opportunity to settle into the position.

If the partnership between Jullien and Duffy needs work, the system the defence builds with their goalkeeper requires even more attention.  Neil Lennon opted for Conor Hazard against Hearts, whom he accepted had a degree of liability for two of the Hearts goals.  A more experienced keeper would have got his retaliation in first on Naismith and, as every experienced keeper in the business does, would have ‘bought the foul’ for the third goal.

It is time to put Vasilis Barkas in goal behind a settled defence.  He is 26-years-old, a Greek international goalkeeper with four seasons’ experience at a decent level, including Champions League football.  There is more to come from him than we have seen this season; playing behind a composed defence will establish this.

You, me and the manager saw two games with Ismaila Soro before the Cup Final, enough to demonstrate he is a player, not enough to convince you, me AND the manager he was right for the final.  As fans, we are guilty of recency bias: Soro played well recenly, Celtic played well, therefore Soro is the answer to our problems.

This can be true but it can also be false.  I fell into this trap earlier this season with Jeremie Frimpong.  He was our MVP in wins over Ross County, Livingston and Hibs, but opposing teams adapted, and he’s young, which means form can be variable.  St Johnstone had his number in Perth next time out and his gas has been at a peep ever since.

What we have seen of Soro is encouraging, especially the second 45 minutes against Lille, but we have not seen enough to bet the bank on him.

At 35, Scott Brown is a shadow of his former imperious best, which has consequences for Callum McGregor and how we defend, which is the reason there is a clamour to play Soro.  e HeIt is accepted that Scott cannot play two games a week for long periods.  Consult your textbook, and it will tell you players like this need to be used sparingly, which means Soro is likely to start tomorrow night and against Dundee United on 30 December.

Alternating Soro and Brown directly conflicts with my desire to see a settled team and partnerships establish throughout the side, but desire is a guideline and guidelines can be flexed in certain circumstances.

Playing Soro or Brown at Ibrox feels like a major call.  Thankfully, it is not my decision, because I can see jeopardy in both options.  If you think the answer is obvious, I suggest you have not considered the matter closely enough.  However, this is the kind of decision Neil Lennon is paid the big bucks to make and get right.

Successful teams have a settled defence, central mid and goalkeeper.  They vary their attacking players, often during games, so while it is important to get the four more attacking positions right, we do not need consistency of selection in those areas.  Neil can throw the dice there against Ross County, Hamilton and Dundee United.  We need to see more from on Odsonne Edouard, Mohamed Elyounoussi  and Ryan Christie, none are currently playing well enough to know their shirts will be on a hanger on 2 January.

We dodged a trauma on Sunday but the game was full of information about the team and how to proceed.  In this respect, Hearts did us a favour in not capitulating.  How we use this knowledge will determine the outcome of the title.

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  1. Happy Wednesday eve!



    Stop giving silly fouls away in our own half. We know what it leads to. That’s a team thing not necessarily a defence thing. 



    Great views os Saturn and Jupiter last night. First time I have seen Saturns rings. Another first for this year!




  2. The turkey has been picked up yet we’re still discussing our best team and formation.



    Almost as though our mgt team are not the best.



    Also makes me less nervous about changing said mgt team.



    ‘The new guy will need time to understand the players strengths and our best XI’. You could almost argue the present dugout incumbents dont know either.



    Still, we’ll soldier on. Perhaps we’ll have a settled side by the season end.

  3. onenightinlisbon on

    History made. Now time to make more. Need to take heed of the major issues we have and solve these starting tomorrow night.

  4. If we don’t win our next 3 games the Jan 2 fixture won’t be relevant. First things first – Ross county awaits tomorrow.

  5. Pingback: We won the cup, so what now? , Celtic Quick News - Celtic FC News Aggregation

  6. Re Charlie Nicholas:



    A few weeks ago on Only Connect, Victoria Coren Mitchel finished the show with this:



    “The show will be back next week but I won’t as I am doing a job swap with Jeff Stelling of Sky Sports.



    Jeff will be here asking The Philatelists if Arsenal should play 5 at the back.



    I will be showing Egyptian hieroglyphs to Chris Kamara and a bemused Charlie Nicholas”



    (Must have been recorded before he was dumped from the show)

  7. ‘It is time to put Vasilis Barkas in goal behind a settled defence. He is 26-years-old, a Greek international goalkeeper with four seasons’ experience at a decent level, including Champions League football.’



    The only trouble is he’s not very good a stopping shots. Get Big Fraser Forster back , at any cost !

  8. onenightinlisbon on

    Barkas should be the first choice, end of. Hazard had a poor game and looked very shaky. Hero at the end but never a number one choice goalkeeper.



    If Barkas is not going to be our keeper then we should be buying one in January and off loading him.



    This Russian Roulette with the goalkeeper shows how weak a manager we have at present and his uncertainty is hindering.

  9. Paul you should know by now that you cannot look four games ahead with a team and a management that lack both consistency and cohesion. At times we are having difficulty looking more than one pass ahead far less four matches. No it has got to be one game at a time no more no less. Ross County, our next opponents have just sacked their manager, a manager who only a couple of weeks back out thought Neil Lennon. And he has been sacked. Robbie Neilson did the same in the second half in the Cup Final. Our midfield disappeared during that period, completely disjointed, and unable to work as a unit, incapable of pressing collectively, retaining the ball or winning it back effectively. Capable though of conceding unnecessary fouls the result of a lack of collective team discipline. We have managed to win our last three games, despite reverting to type on Sunday, and we need to win another one on Wednesday and hope we can slowly but surely rebuild our confidence and regain our winning mentality. Wouldn’t look any further ahead than that.

  10. 67 European Cup Winners on

    Paul67 I agree with most


    But you do miss the most glaring of realities


    We have played 15 games in the league and numerous more in other comps yet we are no further forward in our best formation/team


    We have been knocked out of 3 competitions and languish in the league


    I also believe (just MHO) we are not fit and lack desire


    Further I am not sure the camaraderie of our team is positive


    Sunday apart the highlight of our season is a 90th minute goal by St Mirren



    NL is a hero a legend and our admiration for him especially after Sunday should never be questioned


    But the reality is we are a poor team



    PL shouting from the rooftops – we spent £35m – and he fails to see the irony of our predicament



    For the first time in 10 years I am fearful of going to ipox



    The big question is not do we play Brown or Soro



    Your article is subjective and I respect your view – but it is not the issue



    The big question is how has it come to this


    Not so long ago you were writing we are on a dominant period set to last for a long time to come



    How has our domination in Scotland collapsed in such a short time


    I have my view expressed often on here


    PL/shower/NL/no interviews/PL buying footballers – you will easily understand my position



    But the issue is NOT do we play Brown or Soro



    Hail Hail my friend




  11. onenightinlisbon on

    So we play a rookie in goals over an international goalkeeper with champions league experience?



    Hazard looked no better than Bain or Barkas on Sunday apart from the penalty saves.

  12. onenightinlisbon on







    Cannot believe I am even getting drawn into a debate about the keeper when our failings are in almost each and every position, manager and board as well.



    Generation of domination?

  13. !!Bada Bing!! on 22nd December 2020 12:31 pm



    The way Broonie was limping on Sunday, I think he could be doubtful for Poundland.






    Agreed, can’t see any news anywhere of the injury or stamp marks though.

  14. 67 European Cup Winners on



    We would need to get through 10 pints for me to download my views on our board


    But we are where we are – in a hole



    NL will carry the can for a PL non existent strategy



    I continue to hope and pray we turn a proverbial corner – but that corner seems to a long way away



    Hail Hail




  15. The television in The Rangers’ supporting household was turned low, the curtains were shut and the cat had been told to find another home.



    And then…..3-3….TV-Full blast, KITTY KAT for every stray mog, windows thrown open and tuneless dirges competing with commentators for who could make the most prehistoric and pointless noise.



    Penalties….Christie misses……Effin Pandemonium!…Laps of honour up and down the communal closes, Go Compare impersonations from rooftops and long dead chimney stacks, aftershave splashed on and shared as a he and she are on promises for a lingering night of 30 seconds passion behind the bins. The cats look worried……And then…….



    ……… a sullen, dread filled silence as Ajer approaches the ball with that confidence that made you smile in anticipation of the certainty of going feckin doolally a split second and a split net later ….followed by the suddenly discovered ability to fly around the living room, open the windows, zoom and soar like a inquisitive sparrow and unload over Hutchy Court’s Homage to Hell what every sparrow in Glasgow does regularly over Ibrox.



    From every corner of the earth as far as Tradeston in the West and The Oatlands in the East, pigeons, squirrels, foxes, dugs and cats gathered in a moment of natural harmony around doors windows, trees and eves singing in harmony a full performance of the Missa Solemnis with an encore of “If I could Turn Back Time”…..followed by the full back catalogue of every known Celtic Album.



    And in that other household, that other world, that hadean hole in humanity, the barneys began, the rows raged, spits were spat, even spats were spat and Alexa packed her bags and left not knowing what the feck they were talking about.



    And then …….A SCREAM and the sound of 1,690 stabbing thrusts of a shite stained Lambeg drumstick. Another SCREAM….a soulless WHIMPER…..a final GASP….then….






    and the unmistakeable sounds (unmistakeable that is to those not unaccustomed to such nefarious noises) of a still warm body being washed of the sticky bloodstains, the bath being drained and the obvious pretence of holding a conversation with the now departed missus being shouted to try and deflect us from the sure and certain knowledge that he had stiffed her.



    But then a sudden dawning question faced by all panic stricken perps…….How would he get rid of the body?



    There was only one place….one certain stash that the combined might of Poirot, Marple, Holmes, Lund, Noren and the eagle eyed forensic forces from Cumberland Street Polis station would never find…..and still she remains hidden, the mystery of her disappearance never to be solved……









    Hail Hail




  16. Sorry Paul but Shane Duffy in central defence is never going to work. For me this is pivotal and everything else is largely irrelevant .



    We are holed below the waterline with Shane at the heart of it, the state of the upper decks are irrelevant when the shop starts to sink.

  17. onenightinlisbon on




    Hope more than expectation for me.



    The delight of winning on Sunday was tapered by the second half performance and the thought of the games ahead…

  18. My team for Ross County















    Not suggesting that’s what Neil Lennon picks but it’s what I’d pick. I know McGregor isn’t best used out on the wing but Elyounoussi is too inconsistent, MJ not fit to start and I’d like to see the balance of Ntcham & Soro.

  19. You are close TimA29, but I would switch Christie for another striker – probably Griffiths at this point even if he only lasts an hour. Christie is too weak defensively – he cannae tackle & gives away stupid fouls in our half, whereas Griff just scores goals, goals.

  20. Am I the only one watching a one-time MVP – under BR – of CalMac playing on fumes, all industry but little purposeful invention? Yet a’bodys team features this currently depleted player as a auto-starter.


    Give me – but mostly him – a break so he can get back to his best.


    A mid of Soro, Turnbull, Christie and Bitton could help rest in spells our courageous captain and his depleted deputy.


    But the problems aren;t confined to playing personnel.


    Still glad we did the 4×3 quaddie.

  21. Paul67


    Have a look back at the first goal we lost .


    Ajer had 3 chances to make a challenge, he failed in the trio . Cal Mac didn’t help out when in the position to do so , btw.


    Every team now knows to put someone with pace on the left side between our defence and midfield. On either side .



    Do we practice defensive drills at Lennoxtown ?


    Defending set pieces ?


    Can our manager react to tactical changes by the opposition ?


    All were sadly lacking on Sunday.


    We had a full week to prepare, and the evidence on display was team of strangers.


    We’ve now become addicted to losing cheap goals, to nearly every team we play.


    Whether it’s you or me giving our preference for which players are selected , it’s missing the point.


    Our defending’s been shambolic since the summer.


    You see it , I see it , Peter Lawwell sees it .



    Somewhere there’s a huge disconnect.


    Winning the Scottish cup hasn’t solved anything, but confirmed plenty.


    What happens at Lennoxtown isn’t working. HH

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