So what did we learn last night? For a start, when we need to, we can defend effectively and shut up shop, last night was our fourth clean sheet in Europe this season. The 4-5-1 formation, deployed for the opening 65 minutes, was not effective at producing attacking opportunities, although this may be as much to do with personnel as formation.
Emilio Izaguirre was swamped every time the ball went near him, which did little to settle his confidence. It was wise for Neil Lennon to hook him and drop Charlie Mulgew back. I felt sorry for Miku, who looked like a player in an unfamiliar line-up. He is not a lone target man but will do well when we get the ball to his feet. He was only asked to play that role due to injuries Hooper, Stokes and Samaras and will only do so again under similar circumstances. By contrast, Hooper looked the part once he came on. He bullied defenders as effectively as he does in the SPL, a real pleasing point for me.
Victor Wanyama needs to improve his sharpness to make the most of his composure and tackling ability at this level. The perpetual motion of Champions League teams means a fraction of a second off-pace can compromise the defensive formation.
Did you notice how every time Commons got the ball he was thinking “goal”? His turn before crossing from the left belied the meagre money we paid for him. He is every inch a Champions League player.
James Forrest was played out of the game by the full back. He/Neil needed to find a resolution to this challenge but it didn’t happen. He tried to knock the ball round the outside and pass on the inside a couple of times, which was over-ambitions, to say the least. I don’t think we saw him drop the shoulder and take the player on with the ball, which is a pity, as I’m sure he had the taking of his marker. Both Forrest and Wanyama will be stronger on Match Day 2.
The first objective from our return to Champions League football was that we would be able to compete at this level. That achieved, we can look forward to Moscow in 12 days time.
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