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. jude2005 is Neil Lennon \o/ on

    I know Celtic are hopeless at shys but I lost count how many we shy’d back to a defender rather than down the line to keep the pressure on them!!!




  2. coolmore mafia on

    Thought VVD was appalling last night. If you don’t want to play for celtic just go. He’ll be found out within 10 games in the EPL.



    I said last year that Ronny should be judged on this year’s CL campaign. Yesterday I said he should stay no matter what. Now I don’t know. Thought the tactics were absolutely terrible last night. As bad as Xamax, as bad as any celtic performance i have ever seen.



    Is he the man to take on the huns next year? Will he get us into the CL next year?



    Problem is, the more SPFL dross we beat, the more we will forget the euro let downs.



    i think Ronny has to qualify from the europa league for me. if he doesn’t i think he is not up to it at this time in his career, and we should plan differently for next season.



    What is the opportunity cost of keeping him when, lambert, Larsson are possibly available? So far he has cost celtic about 40 million in champions league money when we should have qualified both years. How long do we give him? How much damage do we allow?



    Next Ronny pump I want to see is when we qualify from europa group, not at fecking maryhill.

  3. Martin O’Neill comment from this article – “My teams have big guys who know how to defend..”



    On several occasions we lost 3 goals when Martin was manager in Europe. He did have big, strong center backs who could defend a high ball but we were weak on the left back position (plus ca change…). and were often caught out from that side. His 3-5-2 formation came under criticism for not being solid enough in Europe. He never really secured a totally reliable goalkeeper.



    Last night was poor in every way especially 3 goals lost over the tie from 6 yard line corners. Whilst Craig Gordon was excellent as a shot stopper, he did not get to any of these corner kicks played in at speed and neither did the 2 big center backs. Decent defending from these set pieces would have made a big difference but we should also remember that Malmo forced some great saves out of Craig so we could have lost a lot more.



    Ronny was out-Ronneyed in my opinion. Malmo pressed us much more intensively than we did to them and nullified Brown/Bitton whilst no-one else stepped in to help them or provide other options and this stopped our ability to break quickly which I had expected when we were away from home. JF certainly tried hard to create but there was no final ball.



    LG – I would have sent him off for his knee into the defender. This was not an image of Celtic I wanted to see flashed around Europe.



    KC – love him but he cannot cope at this level of intensity.



    I was very disappointed that Darnell has gone for a season. He could have had a season ready to step up to the first team and be ready for next year. Now, the start of next season will be another bedding-in period.



    Europa League – I hope that Ronny is open to advice from others to help him sort out our weaknesses or it will be same old, same old.



    Statistics will be quoted about our good defence in Scotland last year but they are irrelevant to Europe. Priority must be to establish a defensive system that works or we will have no foundation to build on for this or next season. Whilst I will regret losing Virgil as he has been a classy player, the reality is that we have lost a lot of goals in Europe under his watch. We need a reliable center back who will focus on defending and leave the rest to others.



    Just beginning to pick my self up and Saturday is now crossing my mind – By then I will be back up for it and looking forward to Europa League. Target must be qualifying and getting through to last 16 – that would be a bit of progress.

  4. my several cents…



    The indiscipline in this team is manifest. Johansen screwing around before last week’s goal and mis-timed tackles yesterday; VVD kicking a dead ball; Griffiths kneeing a guy in the nuts right in front of the ref; Bitton’s yellow lucky not to be sent off; Brown and his perma-glare. It seems like amateur hour to me.



    Also, let’s face facts as my friend said yesterday — too many one-dimensional players. And a manager saying that Celtic played scared is a disgrace. Look in the mirror, RD.

  5. Yeah Mr Pastry but GS is a more experienced Manager than RD


    As KC says the Hoops performance last night was poor & so was


    the team selection & players being played out of position & players


    fitness level @ this time of the new Season & players match mindsets


    we could analyse this till the cows come home but it’s not going the


    change the result as NKC song states we got to pick our selves up


    brush ourselves down & start all over again.


    Let’s all just hope that we learn from this mistake & not be stuck


    in an old TR song entitled “don’t we ever learn” HH & Keep the Faith.

  6. mullet & co 2



    i dont agree with the technical argument either.



    deila is tactically clueless and does not know how to set out a team.


    he sticks to his flawed 4231 which can only work with


    a top striker and at least 1 good holding midfielder.



    he changed around our defensive unit last night in a critical game and made even more insane subs



    that’s 3 strikes at CL….yer out.


    Looking at the whole of the current 1st team squad (as per Celticfc.net), in an ideal world, I would keep/punt/loan the following;



    Gordon- keep. Forever.


    Bailly- keep


    Fasan- keep


    Ambrose- punt


    Izzaguire- punt


    Mulgrew- punt


    Boyata- wait and see


    VVD- going anyway


    Lustig- keep, albeit injury prone


    O’Connell- keep


    Tierney- keep


    Bitton- keep


    Brown- keep, though needs to improve


    Johansen- punt


    Armstrong- keep


    Commons- keep


    GMS- keep


    Forrest- keep


    Rogic- keep


    Allan- keep


    Boerrigter- punt


    McGregor- loan/punt


    Thompson- loan


    Ciftci- loan/punt


    Griffiths- keep


    Stokes- punt


    Scepovic- punt


    Fisher (on loan)- bring back


    Henderson (on loan)- bring back


    Findlay (on loan)- loan


    Waters (on loan)- loan



    That’s 30 first squad members. Personally, I rate 13 of that 30 as good enough (minus VVD) to currently be in the squad (plus 2 reserve keepers).



    It’s only when you go through our squad you see just how poor we are. We are far from CL. In fact, we are far from EL.



    I have to say, having analysed things, I think it can be objectively stated that we are at our weakest since Martin O’Neill left.

  8. Go tell the Spartim on

    For those who say we do spend what we earn, well that is up for debate, its certainly not on the first team. We have needed players for certain positions for years now, a proper left back for one (love the wee guy and his effort, but defending generally and his delivery is appalling, does he not practice), we have no playmaker (in the maestro mould if only, even with a quarter of his ability would do) and to get one would cost more than the usual £2m limit we spend on anyone, in fact anyone who will come, as for a striker, how many attempts have the scouting team had at finding a gem at £2m, none, not one yet we have to entrust them again to try and find us one, even a failed EPL level player is knocking us back, historically we may be one of the nostalgic teams of yesteryear in Europe, now everyone in the EL will be hoping they get us.



    I was a fan of RD until last night, he has no plan B and his players have no ability other than to play one position and one position only, ask them to play elsewhere and although they may turn up they just cant hack it.



    Until we are seen to spend every penny we take in on the first team then i imagine a fair many supporters will stay disillusioned and pick and choose their games more carefully.



    Lennybhoy or Catman any good news to report, c’mon theres gotta be something…..




    Forgetting (I wish) about the starting line up last night, I think Ronnys substitutions were made out of sheer panic…there can be no other explanation.



    Hail Hail

  10. Give Ronny 12 more months


    Nae chance get him papped oot


    He played basically a 424


    Mental considering he don’t play 2 solid defensive midfielders


    we’re as pish if not worse than we were last year give him no more time get him moved on


    maybe get an experienced manager


    experienced players


    we might do something this buy in sell on thing have we replaced


    wanyama no


    ledley no


    ki no


    Hooper no


    Forster maybe


    Btw any ball that comes into the 6 yard box is the goalies


    Gordon at fault for the first one at least

  11. AKBW1888 on 26th August 2015 3:08 pm





    Agree with you…but how does Ronny get the players back on side after labelling them as ‘fearties’ – to me that’s a bigger slur than being called ‘pigs’



    Personally I think he’s right – but what does that say about his management an preparation of the team – to me it’s an astonishing statement for a manager to make – he will get slaughtered for it, and it may well be his ‘swan song’.



    I had great hopes for him – ‘a new broom’ – perhaps he was/is out of his depth.

  12. twentyfirstofmaynineteenseventynine on

    Mr Pastry



    Fair enough, cant disagree with anything you say there. Like most on here I’m just gutted with last nights performance . Ive watched the Celts everywhere over the last 35 years and I genuinely think we’re going backwards regarding Europe. Think you make a lot of salient points but piss people off with your snooty attitude. Honest question, how many times have you been to Tannadice or Pittodrie et al ? Not many I think.




  13. we need another 2 or 3 experienced pro’s in the team


    1 up front.


    1 in central midfield.


    1 in central defence.



    the amount of mediocre euro teams we have played over the last couple of years that


    have experienced technically proficient pro’s in these positions on a fraction of what we pay


    that are way better than what we have is scandalous.







    Lustig (when fit)


    Brown (not on last nights performance though)


    commons (too slow)



    this is all we have now, the rest are inexperienced.

  14. Lennons Passion 1.09




    Thank’s for highlighting my post from a few weeks ago.



    The problem is that I can’t win with that type of post.


    Even though my assessment of the team and it’s management has very sadly proven to be accurate.



    If Celtic lose there is zero comfort in being correct.



    The problem is I took some pretty heavy personal abuse.



    One poster in particular ( Turkeybhoy)



    Laid into me in a very personally insulting manner.



    I love Celtic .


    I truly do.


    I follow them everywhere , whenever possible .



    But I can’t help but speak the truth as I see it.



    I an in Dubai on holiday , otherwise I would have been in Malmo.



    There are several areas where we are being let down.



    The board have no strategy to get us out of Scottish football.



    The board have recruited the wrong management team.


    The board have recruited the wrong senior scouts.



    The board have overseen wasted tens of millions on players.



    The board have not prepared and recruited properly to enable us to qualify for umpteen CL campaigns.



    Macawber economics have meant zero speculation .



    We are now suffering for it .



    Here is another one for you.



    The Hun will be back .


    With increased desire.


    They will outsell us in ST income.



    It will be a straight shoot out for CL


    qualification , and our board no longer have the ambition or the guts for the fight.



    Slag them all you want , they had 49,000 for a Hibs match , which was on Live TV on a Friday night.



    They have been starved and are ravenous for our position.



    I worry that we will not be up to the challenge.



    I will just get more abuse and name calling for making a post from my heart and my head.




  15. Dexter



    On Ciftci I would point out we punted Berget after 6 months and no one raised an eyebrow.



    How did that work out?



    Ciftci has not had anything like enough game time to form an opinion.

  16. johann murdoch on

    RD Celtic sides have scored 30 goals in 20 games including 2 own goals.Of the 30 only 8 have come from our acknowledged strikers as below.



    PUKKI 2


    SCEPOVIC [remember him!] 2








    The remaining goals have mainly came from our midfield with JOHANSEN our or RD s top scorer with 5 which may explain RDs apparent failure to sub him when he is off form.


    The problem is we have also conceded 28 goals over 20 games which remains our achilles heel-sort the defence -sort the problem.


    Had we scored 1 more goal and conceded 1 less we would have been in the CL draw.

  17. Joe Filippis Haircut on

    I think after last nights capitulation the cracks are beginning to show Ronny says the players were scared Commons saying oh no we were not scared Broony saying im embarrassed and big Vic saying I might have played my last game for Celtic come and get me. Things are just not right at Parkhead and the down sizing has come home to roost.H.H.

  18. Joe Filippis Haircut on

    Auldheid. Cifti has shown absolutely nothing since he signed he has not even threatened to score a goal he may be ok for Scottish football but like many other Celtic players he is not up to it in Europe.If you are waiting for him to come good your going to have to wait a long time. Sorry fella in European terms he is a dud. H.H.

  19. Tiny Tim



    If TRFC sell more ST’S than Celtic do then that will be Celtic supporters allowing it.



    I seriously doubt that. Is the perceived wisdom not that our ST sales will rise?



    Even if they were to win a title what makes you think they would have any more success qualifying for CL than we do?



    If they are able to repeat how they qualified before with same end result I’d enjoy their unbroken history repeating itself.

  20. Go tell the Spartim @12:26




    “No flexibility in the Managers tactics (as Gary Neville said bout Mourinho on MNF – about his Matic and Fabregas midfield regardless of opposition, smacks of arrogance – I actually like RD the man)”



    Neville was talking about Wenger actually, and his failure to replace the power of midfielders like Petit and Vieira over the years, preferring smaller, very technically adept players like Fabregas, Cazorla, Rozicky. Without a Matic, or Ya Ya Toure type, Neville can’t see them winning the title, making it over 10 years since they have.



    He said Wenger was being “arrogant”, not learning from his failure over so many years.



    He also talked about the Chelsea players, but in the context of Fabregas’ problems when asked to adopt a defensive role.












  21. GlassTwoThirdsFull on

    PeteTheBeat on 26th August 2015 1:37 pm


    Why was Armstrong taken off at HT?


    Was he injured? He didn’t seem to be doing any worse than anyone else and he does cover a lot of ground


    – ———–


    Thought that was a bit strange. We were never going to go through if we conceded more than one. Commons could have been left until later.




    Chairbhoy 1.07, BlantyreKev 1.33


    Good posts.

  22. TinyTim


    I would also add in that they haven’t challenged the sfa in any way, nor have they done anything about the cheating that eminates from the refereeing dept.


    Other than that, you are spot on.



  23. Joe Fillip



    So was Berget on that basis.



    I’m not saying how good or bad Ciftci is. I can see why he was bought, but he has much improvement to make.



    I’m saying it’s too soon to know if he will do a job for us anywhere. So far nothing to go on.

  24. Talking of Neville, those Manure supporters better be behaving themselves in beautiful Bruges, especially if they visit the sacred shrine that is the Beer Wall.



    Goudener Carolus, on draught, World’s best dark beer winner, 2012, 8.5% ABV.



    A lovely drop, though probably not conducive to good behaviour when I think about it!

  25. Go tell the Spartim on



    Wenger then, but the point remains the same, another manager with no flexibility and a blind spot and arrogance of sticking to the same plan all the time



    Inflexibility being the key word here, its rampant at Celtic

  26. theglasgowcelticway on



    Newco will come back strong because their fans will have had between five and six years of despair and bad times so they will flock back in their droves.I remember listening to an Oldco fan on the phone in few years ago and he argued that they had let a ten year start on Celtic slip we could be making similar error.

  27. Joe Filippis Haircut on

    Auldhied. Tell me why he was bought ? he is not a prolific goal scorer we did not have to fight off other clubs to buy him.He is a player with a poor disciplinary record im sure Utd. must have been amazed that we offered so much for the player. H.H.

  28. theglasgowcelticway on

    Exiled Tim.



    Celtic will never seriously challenge the SFA reading cheating referees.

  29. twentyfirstofmaynineteenseventynine on 26th August 2015 3:26 pm





    Firstly sorry, I do not set out to be “snooty” – I say my piece honestly and never try to dress it up – I am happy for anyone to disagree on the points I make, however more often than not, all I get is mud-throwing and name-calling..i.e hun, troll etc, all because I take an alternative view – I thought social media was designed for this and to somehow redress the biased rubbish served up the the Scottish media.



    Secondly, no I don’t go to away games, except for Firhill and the three pre-season matches at St Mirren. However I have always upgraded my season ticket subscription – I now pay £1400/year for the privilege of supporting my club, a club I have supported for well over forty years – btw the way the ‘usual suspects’ had a go at me for revealing this fact.



    I support Celtic FC – head – heart and wallet, and I will always call ‘it’ as I see ‘it’, without fear, or, favour – I want Celtic to be great again, but unless we can get access to the likes of finance enjoyed in English Football, I fear that we will ‘wither on the vine’ in Scottish Football, which in a European/World context, is unfit for purpose.



    Most importantly I don’t delude myself with ‘blind faith’

  30. Reading the article in CQN Magazine, I must have watched a completely different game than the one Kris Commons described.



    The bit where he said they were disgruntled, leads to me believe that something was said at Half-Time.



    Scott Brown stood up and said he was ashamed. As always Kris ( no shrinking violet) totally refutes this.



    Kris full of himself CSC.



    Árd Macha

  31. A lot of talk about how we played yesterday, we were shocking, we were a disgrace etc.


    A bit unfair. I thought we played ok. I thought away to Malmo the performance was just as I expected.


    Thats how we shape up against them. That, last night, was an accurate reflection of how we play when we play away to Malmo.

  32. blantyretim is praying for the Knox family on




    Overheard a conversation in bookies at lunchtime today


    3 Orc buses leaving Partick tonight



    They will be in same league as Celtic next year(for the first time in their history) but the will be more rabid and hate filled than their predecessors

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