Where did it all go wrong?


Out of the Champions League qualifiers at the hands of a team with a smaller budget than ours, for the second season in succession. Where did it all go wrong? Two shortcomings stand out: team planning and tactical strategy.

I’ll take the latter first. We had 60% possession last night, a remarkable figure for an away European game which was lost. We dominated possession, didn’t score a goal and conceded twice (for the fourth time in five games).

Let me take you back a few years to a Dominik Diamond TV interview with Martin O’Neill, then Leicester City manager, in 1999. O’Neill laid plain his tactical philosophy, “My teams have big guys who know how to defend, they have players who can throw dangerous balls into the box, and players who can get on the end of those balls and put them in the net”.

A year later, when Martin came to Celtic, it was like going to school as we watched the observance of these very rudimentary rules transform our club. His defenders could defend, he had wide players who could throw dangerous balls into the box, and strikers who knew where the goal was. Martin’s teams never dominated possession against a European peer, never mind a team who beat them so comfortably.

It doesn’t need to be explained that there was no team in the world who could score three times from corner kicks against the Celtic team of a decade or so back. Today, team planning has insufficiently focussed on a few fundamentals of the game: know how to defend, know how to translate possession into chances, and have a handful of players in the team who know where the goal is. This is the fittest, fastest, Celtic team I have ever seen, but we looked like busy fools last night.

Ronny Deila’s post-match comments about the team being scared was an instant reaction to the defeat, but it’s worth digging into what prompted this perception. There were actually many occasions when Celtic players showed for a pass, the Uefa possession and completed pass stats conform this, but what we never did was boss the middle of the park.

In yesterday’s blog I asked Celtic to own the park as I have had a worry about this aspect for a while. This is different from covering a lot of ground (we do that), or being able to make a pass (we do that too). We have Scott Brown (runner) and Nir Bitton (passer) in central midfield. I like both but we need extra bite in this area. Celtic’s most effective period over the last decade was when we had Wanyama and Brown central-mid. The role Wanyama fulfilled has been sacrificed for the player in the hole behind the lone striker.

Players of Wanyama’s calibre are not common, and we shouldn’t go 4-3-3 if all we have is a Kayal to fill the additional central midfield space, but Brown and Bitton are not enough in central midfield in Europe. It’s also clear that selection for the four advanced positions (the 3-1) has been so fluid since the start of the season we’re clearly not cohesive in that area of the field either.

For me, if it’s Brown and Bitton, and I think it should be, we need another Brown-Wanyama influencer. Think back to our last Champions League group to consider the prospect of playing a European game without Scott Brown. At the very least we need cover for him, but in Europe we need two in his position. Go 4-3-3.

So much for tactical strategy, what about team planning? For the third August since parting company with Gary Hooper we are hawking around for a striker. Gary’s not a panacea, so I’ll ignore him as a prospect for now, but while Leigh Griffiths has performed beyond the call of duty, we are, again, out of the Champions League without having any idea who our primary striker will be this season.

We are in a loop of mistakes, and frankly, the most likely next action is that we respond by recruiting an identikit of the many strikers who have passed through Parkhead gates in recent years. We know enough about this problem to be aware that it’s our primary challenge, yet we have been unable to overcome it.

In my State of the Club blog at the start of the season I cautioned that we’d swapped Gordon Strachan’s soft spot for recruiting from Hibs, for a desire to see stars at Dundee United. Ciftci, Mackay-Stevens and Armstrong have been our primary recruits for advanced positions in 2015. Only one won a place in the starting line-up last night, leaving us relying on players who struggled to get in the team a year (or longer) ago.

Ronny Deila may well be able to polish Dundee United players into top performers at Celtic, but we didn’t recruit the finished article. We should have known this, and should have been aware that our August cup finals would have made calls on bit-part players from recent seasons.

We will find the occasional Champions League player in Scotland, but you can’t raid a mid-table SPFL team and expect to leap to the very top table in the game. This team planning strategy always looked vulnerable and it’s proven to be.

On the money side, you know my views. Over any business period you pay what comes in, no more and no less. We’re losing to team who spend less than us, not more, and on this occasion a team who picked up a player we discarded.

On just as important matters………


The golfers among you have three days to buy a raffle ticket – for £1 only – to win a round of golf at the fantastic Aberdour Golf Course for four people! Check it out here on ebay.  Money raised (by Taggsybhoy) will go to the Foundation.  This important work, always needs to be done, win, lose or draw.

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  1. In Ronnie we have a young manager, granted he spent a number of years learning his trade at Stromsgodset but as was mentioned when he won the league there it was was like Motherwell winning the SPFL.



    First step should have been supporting him, give him an experienced coaching staff, John Collins caused mutiny at Hibs before taking the huff and leaving. John Kennedy while learning his trade with the development squad wasn’t and isn’t ready to make the step up to first team coach.



    Ronnie has the right ideas but needs experience to guide him to those decisions he needs to make not have someone telling him he’s right all the time which I suspect is the case with Collins given they agree so wholeheartedly on how football should be played.



    As for the team, we’re still in transition (again), it’s blatantly obvious that Mulgrew is no more than an SPFL squad player, he epitomises what Collins recently said “Slow and not clever enough”, so how he can get into the first team is beyond me.



    Agree with Paul67 about a definite holding player who can control a midfield but up front should be a player, dare I say it, like Rosenborg last night, he jumped/barged/nudged and bullied our defence our night which we don’t have on the books, yes Cifti will snarl but he isn’t the answer.



    4 players are needed immediately, left back, holding midfielder and bustling centre forward, if we have those the defence will settle down even without VVD but those should be our priority.

  2. mullet and co 2 on

    As I said last week. Teams with more posession in general do not win matches.


    It was admittedly amateurish last night.


    Where last year we had problems with the fundamental pass in the midfield we now get the ball to a position near the final third and give it to the opposition.


    Johansen passed the ball to them on at least 3 occasions when he was attempting a pass between full back and centre half. Forrest can run with the ball at his feet for 40 yards but he gives it to the opposition when he’s finished.


    Malmo started countless attacks from us giving away posession down their flanks or 30 yards in front of their goal.



    Aside from last nights mystery, we continue to buy projects and waste money. I tend to think Scepovic would be good and could fall into the category of Berget if he was used properly. I support the purchase of GMS and Armstrong but not necessarily Ciftci. Armstrong is being played out of position and I think would be a better player than Johansen long term. GMS is a good squad player who might have 3 or 4 man of the match performances in the SPL which is good enough for his age the spend and wages.



    We fall down in ethos as a club with the focus on generating an income shortfall by using player sales. We won’t employ an experienced international Over the age of 24. We were crying out for experience last night. Mulgrew, Brown, Gordon and Commons are not enough especially when they are isolated and played out of position. You don’t have to spend a fortune on an experienced bosman. The wages outlay will pay back in performances. Not every position needs to be filled by a 23 year old prospect. The club has the feel of a supermarket rather than a football club.


    Ronny gets another Europa league and a league campaign to roll the dice one more time but he has no help.

  3. timbhoy3 on 26th August 2015 12:50 pm Paul Lambert no thanks bad manager.at villa and Livingston. and you would need a interpretator.to tell us what he is saying.could never make out what he was saying at media conferences.and I’m not being cheeky.





    Lambert had his chance and blew it. Alex Neil is the guy to replace our roaring fitness instructor.





    Thanks for those posts;lowered the tone of the blog in seconds.



    You must be taught that at Tullialan. Irvine Welsh managed a whole book about it.





    Strange post. Don’t recall that type of delivery from your moniker before.



    Is the usual fella on holiday?

  6. real leaders address their followers regularly – regardless of circumstances…..real leaders dont hide. Anyone heard or seen Peter lawwell since last night?

  7. I am struggling in work today as I barely slept last night. Absolutely gutted and lay in bed disturbed by us blowing a great chance to get into the UCL. Started making me worry about when we will ever get there again. I don’t expect champions league football but thoroughly appreciate how amazing it is for the club when we get it.



    Of course last night has raised doubts over Deila in my head, it’s hard not to. However, talk of getting shot of him is nonsense.



    Ultimately, bringing in Cifti and Boyata wasn’t enough investment in the team. Whose responsibility is this? Same old same old Celtic, even with the bigger UCL bounty.



    One thing that bothered me today is how much damage a loan signing can do to a team, in our case Denayer. Don’t get me wrong, it was good having him here and I think he is a class player. However, with his loan finishing, it left a big hole in our central defence. Unfortunately, that hole hasn’t been sufficiently filled and we are a weaker than we were in May.

  8. GlassTwoThirdsFull on

    Thought last year was a blessing in disguise as I thought we were nowhere near CL standard and could have taken some serious doings.


    This year I thought we were ready to compete and maybe get a third place finish.


    Last year W2, D1, L3. This year W4, D1, L1 so we have improved.


    Players have also to be more tactically aware. Not just down to management.

  9. Players “scared”? We should not be surprised if they were, because I have said on at least two occasions over the last couple of days, Ronny was terrified and almost unintelligible in the lead-up press conferences.



    Without absolving the players who ‘shit it” – WGS would get more out of this group.



    Yes the same WGS who was hounded and disparaged by some of our chest-beating ‘ultra’ so-called Celtic supporters.



    Celtic, for the foreseeable future, is a domestic product, with a chance of EL groups.



    The horizon, in reality, has be lowered from CL group qualification, to EL group qualification.



    Frailty, naivety as I’ve said, now Ronny adds fear – he didn’t need to add it from me – it was always implicit in the first two.



    That said, surely putting scared players on the field is an admission of managerial failure?



    However, now the ‘real’ Celtic fans (TCT)can get on with their most important agenda – i.e. The Living Wage and the stripping of bonus payments for employees – faithful through and through, even until bankruptcy – “let’s grap a piece of the Sevco crap – we all love the moral high-ground”

  10. I don’t think RD is the problem. I also don’t think it’s all down to a lack of spend. Obviously spending more would increase our chances (not guarantee anything) but we’re losing out to teams who spend less. It’s our environment and approach. The players need to be technically better than they are.



    For all the, what appears to be slagging, of Ronny and his fitness regime. I thought we looked out on our feet in the last 15 of the first leg and generally less fit than Malmo overall. Something that clearly still needs improving.

  11. Jungle Jim Hot Smoked on

    “Alex Neil is the guy to replace our roaring fitness instructor”.


    Just a quick look but are some really calling for the sacking of Ronny Deila?



    If so, yet another example of why I disagree with the often asserted as axiomatic that `everyone is entitled to their opinion`.




  12. playfusbal4dguilders on

    IF Ronny Deila had Larson Sutton and Hartson to pick from….



    which 1 would he play??????




  13. South Of Tunis on

    Summa @ 1.41 pm .



    Rubentus beat Malmo 2-0 in Malmo in last season’s CL Group Stage .



    Atletico Madrid beat Malmo 2-0 in Malmo in last season’s Cl Group Stage .



    Back to the holiday —-

  14. Big over reactions to last night. We have the basis of a good squad. Things could be a lot worse. My own thoughts are that we should be more cautious tactically especially away from home and look to add a couple of more experienced heads, guys who have seasoned European experience behind them. Also think the time has come for Virgil to go, it’s become too much of a distraction. Hope for a good Europa draw and a good result on Saturday to get things back on track.

  15. Morning all,



    I have read a few comments and my view, for what its worth, was that Ronnys team selection was the problem. The fact that the team that he put on the field performed disgracefully was secondary.



    In a game as important as last nights you put your most experienced players on the pitch and in their favoured positions. The fact that that defence had never played a competitive game together highlights the craziness of the selection. Two kids who just joined the club were paired up at CB and RB, FFS! Efe should have been at right back and Izzy at left back. Stokes should have been at left midfield where he showed his worth last season, but Ronny, that great tactician, didn’t even have him on the bench.



    Turkeybhoy, you effing coward…you quoted me last night as someone who called for Mulgrew to replace Izzy as an excuse to flounce. Well FU, buddy! I believe that Izzy is one of, if not, our best player. I was so pissed when I saw the team selection so you can GTF.



    Still raging.



    Hail Hail





    Let me know when you have something pleasant to say about Celtic,Celtic fans,Celtic management,Celtic players.



    Or anything at all really,as long as it’s not your usual long-winded attention-seeking tripe.



    (Although 16 ROADS asserts that with the addition of an onion,your tripe would make a decent dog’s dinner)

  17. mullet and co 2 on

    Malone bhoy,


    I’m not sure that Malmo, maribor, Legia etc etc are technically better than us. We have a Dutch, Hondurans, Israellis, Belgians etc. Malmo had a lot of hardworking homegrown players mixed with some foreigners a bit like us. They were better because they played as a unit. We seem stuck in a debate about Scottish players being poor when the National team is doing well with a reasonably attacking formation. I don’t buy the technical argument.

  18. The Battered Bunnet’s list makes for depressing reading. I also picked up on a comment by Ard Macha this morning about Malmo ‘being no better than Aberdeen’ which is fairly accurate.



    Many speak about ‘this level’ when it comes to our players performances. This level is not higher than what we are used to week in/week out. The teams listed would be unlikely to trouble us over a season in league competition but over 2 legs we falter against them. Qualifying rounds for the Champions League is not Champions league level.



    I don’t have the capacity of some to analyse why that happens other than the fact we simply don’t have the bottle to handle these occasions which maybe explains why we fail to pick up as many cups as we should be doing domestically. No idea how to solve that either!



    The difference is that over 2 legs against inferior opposition you usually take your chance to overcome the poor result in the first leg. We don’t.

  19. If it were me I would send them all back to Barrowfield to train. If they are scared let them train there.



    It isn’t a question of money against Malmo.



    If Barrowfield was ok for Henrik why not the current team?




    “In a game as important as last nights you put your most experienced players on the pitch and in their favoured positions. The fact that that defence had never played a competitive game together highlights the craziness of the selection. Two kids who just joined the club were paired up at CB and RB, FFS! Efe should have been at right back and Izzy at left back.”



    This is spot on and like you my heart sank when the team was announced. Five qualifying games, five league games and we start experimenting with our back four in our most important game of the season. Crazy!

  21. the glorious balance sheet on

    I cant help but feel that whenever we play games in Europe with Ronny, after the first match against opponents the other team quickly suss what we are about and get the measure of us next time we play them.



    For example- Maribor 1st game 1-1, then 0-1;


    Salzburg 2-2, then 1-3;


    Zagreb 1-0, then 3-4;


    Astra 2-1, then 1-1;


    Inter 3-3, then 0-1;


    Malmo 3-2, then 0-2;



    Its not just a home advantage thing as Maribor and Salzburg show. Other managers seem able to learn from playing against us, adapt their tactics, and we have no answer. Or maybe its partly complacency?

  22. clogher celt on 26th August 2015 2:22 pm



    Maybe if Henrik et all had had Lennoxtown available we’d have won in Seville.

  23. twentyfirstofmaynineteenseventynine on

    Mr Pasty



    Sorry but you seem to be enjoying this too much. I’m not calling you out as a hun but you revel too much when it doesn’t go right for us. Why ?

  24. We’re in the big draw on Thursday. Defending the league cup. Then Europa on Friday.



    Sevco in the league cup, Ajax, Legia Warsaw and Sion in the Europa. That’ll keep us all busy till Christmas.

  25. personally I would have played for 0-0 last night and just blootered the ball out of the park at every opportunity. No clever tactics required.

  26. Weeminger,



    I know.



    But not with Mourino’s, cheating. Henrik scored two. Their manager did the same to us last night.

  27. I’ve given Ronny the benefit of the doubt,up until last night.The diet/fitness changes have been excellent,but they can only take you so far.Tactics,motivation,formations,substitutes ? IMO Ronny is out of his depth.I would put him in charge of Lennoxtown,to develop our young players.The problems we have ,are deep rooted,and long standing,and well documented on here.Something has to change.This is not a knee jerk reaction,i will be there on Saturday as usual,supporting the team on the park.


    “This is the fittest, fastest, Celtic team I have ever seen”



    Paul- I have to disagree. At times, against Scottish opposition and for a period in the 1st leg, we looked fit, looked dynamic. But, over the past several weeks, we have looked distinctly unfit- see SB, SJ. I don’t think Boyata or Mulgrew are particularly fit. Ciftci aint fit either. Last night, we looked far from fit- physically or mentally.



    Where did it go wrong?



    1. Needless concession of a second goal at Parkhead



    2. Underestimation of the opposition- that is a management failing, aswell as the players’. We were not up for it.



    3. Team selection- Mulgrew at LB was wrong. I was wrong with may others to suggest he should replace EI. But, presumably RD knew how fit or otherwise Mulgrew was in training. He manifestly wasn’t.



    4. Players froze on the night. VVD, SB and SJ in particular were poor. Midfield were MIA.



    5. In game tactics- where do we begin?



    (a) Forrest was switched from being effective on the right. His presence there had assisted the attacking of Janko. This assistance disappeared when KC went right.


    (b) Kris Commons playing right side in 2nd half. Since when, Ronny, since when?


    (c) Ciftci- not good enough. GMS- not good enough, yet.


    (d) Johansen not being subbed. Teacher’s pet. Very poor game


    (e) Forrest being subbed. The single most inexplicable decision of RD’s career, in my view. Shocking.



    6. Failing to invest by PLC. We have been cutting cloth for years. Why should it be a surprise when we actually reach the point where we have cut too much? No one was calling for silly spending. A couple of proper signings, not projects, were required. If the mid table SPL players we have signed were so good, their teams would be closer to ours.



    There are systemic problems at Celtic. Problems which have been a long time coming. Some have warned of this scenario since the Strachan days. PL employing puppet managers to do his bidding has come home to bite us.



    There is no quick solution, but as a minimum, we need a change of strategy at the top and/or a change of personnel at the top.

  29. twentyfirstofmaynineteenseventynine





    Let me assure you, my friend in Celtic – I am as upset as anyone, but not surprised.



    Some on here, and some fans, were taken in by Ronny’s expertise and his proclamations.



    In football, business and personal life, you must be honest and face-up to where you are – I do this and by doing it, I realised over the past two years that we were moving backwards.



    Lot’s on here have been too busy ‘lapping-up’ the Ibrox debacle, to be able to see what is happening to us.



    Let’s take a horse racing analogy – would you back a horse to win a group race because it has won a selling race?



    Look a Celtic’s form this season – Kilmarnock – Ross County – ICT – how on earth can you be confident?



    Then look at the first-leg against Malmo – frailty and naivety and now Ronny says FEAR,



    We are competing in a country with a football set-up akin to a Selling Plate race – yes it can get more competitive, but it will never be better quality, and will never easily lead to Group races – i.e. Champions League.



    As I have said before, Gordon Strachan would get more out of these players – just as he has done with Scotland.

  30. I am Not Lurking Anymore on

    I think the players bottled it last night plain & simple nothing to do with the formation as WGS used to say it’s players that win matches not formations


    Although not having a plan b & being able to adapt is a worry


    I don’t want to get into a debate about zonal or man marking but not having players on either post is crazy IMO


    Anyway on to the draw how’s this one for old times sake




    Legia Warsaw


    Rapin Vienna

  31. Regarding the old Spend what you earn mantra


    That mantra is all well and fine as long as the amount that you are earning is not falling year on year…


    Once this cycle of falling earnings starts, it follows that reduced spending occurs


    Likelihood of reduced spending is reduced earnings


    and then guess what? More reduced spending


    which brings about- even less earnings


    and since we only spend the reduced earnings and guess what follows that……


    and the downwards spiral continues


    Meanwhile Good Celtic men cheer that we can beat the likes of Killie (sometimes) with resources that dwarf our opponents as if that is some great achievement.



    If our earnings are not falling year on year, its only because we have been selling our best players year on year to compensate for lower gate receipts.



    Ask yerself this- If Henrik was here today would we


    a) Pay him 40 grand a week to sign a new contract


    b) Sell him for the first offer from the EPL



    And as for giving Ronny another 12 months? I already did that 12 months ago! I don’t see any progress since then.




    Darnell Fisher going out on loan.



    I dispair.






    Let us wildly speculate that ML gets injured again this season… ahem… Well, in that unlikely event, we have Janko at right back. That’s fine, until he is injured or tired. Then we have who? Ambrose?!



    I really do wonder what John Collins, John Kennedy and Jim McGuinness contribute when the blindingly obviously wrong decisions are being made (see substitution of Forrest last night as another example). Do any of them put their heads over the parapet to politely ask “what the f*ck are you playing at Ronny??”

  33. For those arguing Celtic should spend what they earn, I would argue they do.


    Sadly much of it is in signing of the Impairment sextuplets












    All soon to be joined by Boerrighter

  34. TBB


    Cults boy







    Good to read some thoughtful informed by figures comments that attempt to go past personalities and look at the issues that govern how those personalities perform.



    Kingho your comment about 2 legs and a league is a relevant one.



    Barcabhoy on Twitter was saying qualification for CL is too much of a lottery to buy your way past. That is to be sure to win it you have spend a lot of money to improve the chances and still could lose.



    Now what if the lottery element was changed by having mini qualifying leagues playing midweek/weekends from early July to early September where points decide?



    Such a mini league/s arrangement perhaps regional would attract a TV audience so generate income for participating clubs but most important it reduces the risk of a not qualifying because a ref does not see a hand ball (as in a cup game) and allows for effect of injuries etc to level out.



    The current format is slowly but surely killing the game (and clubs like Celtic) across Europe. It behoves UEFA and ECA to look at what we now have and come up with something that levels out the risks clubs decide to take to sit at the big table.



    It is but a step in the way to European leagues but without such a step domestic football is going to be judged against the result in any one match.



    Stoopid is as Stoopid does.



    If we are having a go at the Board it should be for not campaigning along with other clubs to have a review of impact of CL football as structured on domestic competition across Europe.

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