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. Hugh Bonkle fae Dallas on

    RWE, an honest thought provoking post.



    But I’m not asking to sign megastars from England or elsewhere. At the moment I’d settle for a team good enough to beat Malmo to the CL. Surely that isn’t beyond our club. If it is we should all throw the towel in.




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


    which 1 would he play??????



    S Johansen

  3. Dontbrattbakkinanger on

    Anyways,all that’s happened is that a Europa League standard team has qualified to play in the ole Europa League.



    The ECL remains either an aspiration, or a delusion.



    In the meantime I shall continue to pray to Our Lady, Undoer of knots, for a way through our current tribulations.

  4. Lack of investment from Peter Lawwell, never read any of this nonsense when we signed 25% of Dundee Uniteds first team. Effe & Izzy were the scapegoats less than a week ago. Now they were the unplayed saviours. Malmo team cost less than £3million, wow! Great. However, Malmo sold their best players last year! Does Peter Lawwell have a relative in Malmo. Seems downsizing pays off. Scouting department hopeless? Banbury et El? They’ll argue Wanyama, Forster, and Virgil. Much gold from dross signings, it seems. Suspect Johansen, Commons will be playing somewhere else next season, Scott Allen and Ryan Gauld younger better replacements. Game changed on disallowed goal. That meant we had the impetus coming out for second half. Even better, ref gives penalty for hand ball, we score and player sent off. Celtic against 10 men in second half…hmm.

  5. Hugh Bonkle



    No, – I’m not, anyway we’re an Europa League side and not even one of the better ones.



    Every player we sign is a gamble.



    Boyata is a gamble with very similar credentials to Denayer, when he was signed on loan.



    We hoped to copy the formula, and time will tell for Dedryk. He is actually a lot more accomplished than I thought he would be at this stage, having pre seeing him play, read Manchester City’s version of Quick News. Also this time last year Jason Denayer was even too short, to be a Celtic centre back ( I read it on here )



    Time will tell, but £1.3 is where we’re at, and likely to stay, see Nadir Ciftci at £1.5 for strikers.



    Even if we doubled or trebled the transfer fee, there’s no removing the gamble, and we’re still in our financial flea market, because wages are linked, and very shortly we’ll likely have to replace VVD – How much will we gamble?



    Buy cheap, sell on, ever since we came home from Seville.




  6. RT REV DAVID HAY on 26TH AUGUST 2015 3:27 PM


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





    1 up front.





    1 in central midfield.





    1 in central defence.



    add to that a complete back 4 we are dire at the back.

  7. Not long home from the hospital.



    Olivia has had the lump removed from her breast today and the operation went well.



    She is home and feeling a wee bit tired but brighter than I expected.



    We would like to thank you all for your caring posts and prayers through what has been a very difficult time.



    She never once complained and accepted her situation like a grown up.



    As I hugged her this morning before she went to theatre she reminded me that there were children worse off than her.



    I knew she was right, but when it’s your kid…………………



    I know some of you have been there already, but it’s still hard to take.



    I’m crying as I type this because that wee girl is the most important thing in my, and my wifes life.



    We all know that wee have felt the effect of your prayers and kind supporting thoughts, from ghuys and ghals I’ve never met and may never meet.



    You have all this day made a difference to our lives.



    A huge difference.



    And we thank you for that from the bottom of our hearts.



    I love Celtic, but even more, I love CELTIC PEOPLE!



    I will light a candle tomorrow for all you intentions.



    Thanks to you all and God bless.



    Anyways,all that’s happened is that a Europa League standard team has qualified to play in the ole Europa League.


    The ECL remains either an aspiration, or a delusion.


    In the meantime I shall continue to pray to Our Lady, Undoer of knots, for a way through our current tribulations.


    See more at: http://www.celticquicknews.co.uk/where-did-it-all-go-wrong/comment-page-5/#comments



    don’t Brattbakkinanger, how ironic that Harold was quoted in saying that the fitness instructor roar will


    be judged @ his time @ the helm of CP on his European performances which @ present are in grim & doom & gloom mode & don’t forget to add this wee hymn “Avie Maria” Doni-vu-benadicta-tu you know what I


    mean? Let’s just hope with the grace of our Lord that their is positive light @ the end of the tunnel as


    regards to our club’s future & which direction it’s heading towards instead of wow

  9. Philbhoy,



    Hope the recovery continues.



    You, the wife and Olivia are all lucky to have the love and support of one another.



    Árd Macha

  10. thomthethim for Oscar OK on




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





    Interesting that you should say that.


    Watching the game last night, seeing a Celtic team so far off the game, even with good possession, my mind went back 45 years to Milan.



    The Celtic team who played that night, were not the team who captivated Europe.


    The fact that they regained a lot of their momentum subsequently suggests a “one off”.



    Strong stories at the time suggested discontent in the camp. I believe that.



    My father’s workmate was outside the stadium when the Celtic team bus arrived.



    The players trooped off with particularly glum faces, but what took his attention was our greatest ever player kicking his boot bag off the bus.



    What could have caused Jinky to react in that manner?



    Back to last night.



    What happened that drove the heart and desire out of Celtic?



    In Milan, it was Big Yogi who gave everything on the night.


    In Malmo, it was James Forrest.

  11. i'vehadtochangemyname on

    It feels like when deadco weren’t allowed to buy players and we totally mismanaged that period.

  12. I am just as disappointed as anyone else and I agree with many of the points raised earlier. I hope to propose something useful to help remedy the situation. Clearly the club has several systemic problems in a variety of areas. The business model of buy low, sell high needs to be assessed. Perhaps it only needs fine tuning, perhaps not. The scouting system needs to be evaluated. It is not sufficient to say we are operating in a high risk market of 1.5-2.5 million players. There have been too many clear failures from day 1 that should never have been signed. I am sure you can name at least 5 in recent years. The management team need to be evaluated…are they too inexperienced? Are they wedded too much to a single system(4-2-3-1)? Do they need additional support? Perhaps you can add other areas that need examined.



    I suggest that a management audit is required in those areas and that it be conducted externally. Although this would be not be inexpensive, it probably will save much more than it would cost. All of the report does not need to be made public but some of it should in order to address the increasing dissatisfaction of fans.



    Such an action will show that the Board is serious about improving the club. Actually, this has been necessary for some time, given recent performance in Europe.




  13. blantyretim is praying for the Knox family on



    I feel I know Olivia as she is a similar age to mini and our girls have all but grown up as part of cqn



    Give her a big hug from her friends on cqn and look after your wife and daughter


    God bless pal

  14. Tiny Tim…




    Good post , I could feel your hurt when reading it.



    A lot of valid points.



    Personally, I would give RD a bit more time to get the team/supporters heads lifted after what was one of the most inept performance I’ve witnessed for some time.



    Every penny of the Virgil transfer should be reinvested and like some have said…preferably on experienced /proven players.



    Btw…the huns in work reckon they could take us just now!



    As I had to explain to them…yes the EL is our standard at the moment, as Barca is CL standard…whereas the pet food cup is yours.



    P.S….. TT enjoy your holiday and keep off the pool tables. HH

  15. On another subject – which will definitely bring the clique down on my head – still never mind.



    If you want to have insight of a man that has done more for Scotland that all the nationalists put together and is Celtic man ‘through and through’ into the bargain

  16. Barrow field is no more than a training ground.I’m sure the pitches are OK.but other than that I don’t think there are changing rooms there.in my opinion Dermot Desmond’s should upgrade it.but he won’t again it would be down to the fans to put there money forward for barrowfild to be upgraded .for a billionaire he is tight with his money.

  17. BT



    Hugs are not allowed at the moment!



    She get’s a kiss instead!



    Thanks to you and Ard Macha.

  18. For myself, yesterday’s debacle lies firmly at the feet of the players. They had the ability to get through this cup final tie, but quite frankly looked like doe-eyed deer started in the headlights.



    I’m a fan of Kris Commons, but his glib dismissal of not being at the races, in this instance only furthers the case that the players’ attitude was abysmal on the day.



    There would have been a plan and tactics would have been laid out minutely, but somehow our millionaires with a contact to protect them against underperforming, managed to be outmuscled, outsmarted and outplayed by a team costing £8 million in wages, as opposed to ours with a comparative £33 million. Depressing indeed.



    Culpability can be analyzed further by others with a smarter business head than I , but if Ronny is to be held to account, then so too should his boss, Peter Lawwell and ultimately our board of bankers, chartered accountants and entrepreneurs. Is there really a football man amongst them?



    I am prepared to give Ronny and team another go at CL qualification. If there is further unacceptable results, questions need to be asked of custodians higher up the chain than just pitch-side.



    Right! Back to being a heid-in-the-sand happy clapper.



    Huns GIRUY. Malmö played their part in more in DESTROYING you.

  19. mike in toronto on




    Glad to hear things went well. Your post provides a bit of light and perspective in what has been a somewhat morose 24 hours. Thanks for sharing. Thoughts and prayers , pal.

  20. Paul 67



    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.



    Do you think maybe if we were a little more adventurous with our signings we would get more punters in and therefore more cash in the long run (obviously enough that we wouldn’t have to go out of business but more than the current situation)

  21. Philbhoy



    Philbhoy, the thoughts and prayers of the Starry family go out to you and your family. As a Dad to two girls my heart goes out to you and your wife and to Olivia of course.



    God bless Mate..




  22. I expected a lot from Celtic going into the play-off games against Malmo. It was a huge disappointment that the team that seemed so well prepared this time should fail so miserably and implode particularly in the second half of last night’s match. We were reasonably comfortable up to the concession of the first goal and even then we could have been back in the game were it not for the double whammy of the Malmo punching the ball from under the crossbar GAA style and the unbelievable disallowing of the Celtic goal – a huge game changer.



    Interesting that Malmo had six players who never played in Europe and had to integrate a lot of new players into the team after losing so many players after last season sucesses, manager King Herod seems to have done a good job to get his team into the group stage. That Rosenburg guy who played up front was a great physical presence and experienced leader. The guy is in his thirties and I wonder how he never came into Celtic’s radar – probably because he wasn’t a prospect no doubt. Izzy should have never been dropped for last night’s game. Still hurting after last night but we still have European football up to Christmas and plenty of good teams in that competition.

  23. FourGreenFields on




    Great news that everything went well today , will keep you all in my prayers mate .



  24. Philbhoy, Lovely post written from the heart. I am sure your lass will be fine. Posts like yours put last night into perspective. I will say a prayer for Olivia tonight, May God Bless her and look after her.

  25. coolmore mafia on

    Where is the board strategy?



    1- Why haven’t the board come up with an imaginative way to significantly increase our income despite playing in SPFL?



    2- Why did the board destroy our CL last year by losing home advantage and playing at Murrayfield?



    3- Why haven’t the board backed Ronny this close season in the transfer market? If they have, why aren’t players coming to us?



    4- Why is the board renumeration so out of kilter with team performance? It seems PL could be replaced by a £40k a year bean counter. What has he done the last few years apart from crack a Rory Bremner joke?



    5- Moneyball may be whoopy doo at increasing efficiency and generating capital, but it leaves fans cold watching heroes leave every single year. Is there any other strategy?



    6- Are we going to just wander through life until we die playing in the SPFL or are Celtic going to be the catalyst for federal change? I think we should be told.



    7- Are the board going to continue with the most unimaginative crap tv deal in history, or are they going to come up with an intelligent alternative? When someone is paid in excess of half a million, the least we expect of them is imagination and some seriously good moves on behalf of the club. Where is your imagination Peter? Signing from the Israeli league doesn;t count. Moneyball, an economic winner, doesn’t produce success. Are you just treading water until retirement now?



    8- Would we have been better holding Wanyama, Hooper etc to their full contracts and qualified for the CL instead of punting them? Even if we failed to qualify, the product would be better on the park.

  26. Ronny cocks it up and MO’N gets it in the neck!



    Anyone who inherited players of the calibre of Henke and Lubo could consider themselves “lucky”, just as he was “lucky” to inherit a team which had finished a mahooosiv 21 (that’s right, lady, twen- tee- one) points behind the financially doped Deidco the previous season.



    Maybe Henke was lucky to have a manager who gave him such a quality of partners up-front, and a defence that didn’t give away many games when the forwards had done their job. And who turned that points deficit into a 15 point surplus in his first season, an ultra-mahoooooosiv 30 plus 6, = 36 point turnaround.



    Oh, and two cups to win only the club’s third ever treble.



    Jammy git!

  27. On another subject – which will definitely bring the clique down on my head – still never mind.



    Funny how Delaney the donkey and his pen-pal ‘knitting bee’ sycophants are strangely on our current problems – but ask them for a running commentary on their lives and eating and drinking habits and they will post for you ’till the cows come home’, personally i’d rather the cows posted ’till they came home’



    If you want to have insight of a man that has done more for Scotland that all the nationalists put together and is Celtic man into the bargain, I urge you to watch the Alba documentary on Brian Wilson, a man who like Jim Murphy, another good Tim, has been vilified on this blog, by the rabid SNP converts in our midst.



    I repeat, he has done more for Scotland than all the one-issue nationalists put together – don’t come back and ask me what he has done – watch the film.

  28. Philbhoy



    A sense of perspective on a day when we all search for answers on a fitba match and team.



    God bless you and your family.




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