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.

Click Here for Comments >

About Author


  1. ‘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.’



    Here’s what I think, tin hat on:



    Last night, and with any away game in Europe, sacrifice heidless chicken Johansen and put Efe Ambrose in beside Broon in front of a back 4.



    What you’ll get is tireless running and competitiveness from a very capable athlete and experienced professional committed to the team. Also, playing in a position which denies him last-man responsibility means plenty of cover for lapses in concentration.



    We are one-trick ponies, as the Malmo manager sussed.



    My own zonal marking philosophy at corners – ZONE-in, pick up yer man, match his run and jump and clear the feckin ball.

  2. Malmo manager outfoxed Ronny, that’s my take on it.


    You could see he targeted our weaknesses, I didn’t see Ronny doing that with theirs.


    Malmo must have been killing themselves laughing that we fell for same con trick 2 games in a row. Corner to Malmo player blocks VVD and they score. To fall for it last week was naive but to fall for it 2games in a row is beyond comprehension. That is as much a reason as to why we out then any other given.


    To those who are happy to see VVD go, be careful what you wish for.

  3. Was going to talk about football. No need cos some wise posts have already covered it.



    Could I just point out though to those lambasting playing 2 rookies on the right side of our defence last night that the 4 goals we lost over both legs were actually down to errors made by our established players, those I rate most highly.



    And then I read philbhoy and remember that being part of the Celtic family is about so much more than football.



    Prayers big Mhan



    HH jamesgang

  4. Personally the numerous comments on here about greater spending / investment, is the wrong shout in my opinion..



    Not greater investment but wiser investment is the key.



    And no truer an example is our investment on strikers…



    While Malmo are picking up an experienced target man in Rosenberg for buttons, we have spent 1.5million on Cifti, and 2.3 million on Scepovic….


    That is 3.8 million, with the prospect of absolutely no return.



    And there in lies the problem. We fritter away a million here a couple of million there. When we should be far more astute in our purchases.

  5. I’m looking forward to Saturday as I am very interested to see how the team reacts. Ronny, and a lot of the established players, need a good performance and good result.



    Plus I like seing Celtic play…



    Plus I’ll have finished my job by Saturday…



    Plus it will be a Saturday…

  6. And while I’m at it, the one most significant thing that Ronny needs to wake up about, is the contribution of his compatriot….


    Since mid March his form went right out the window. And if by winning player of the year last year makes him think he is untouchable, he is in for a big shock.



    Johansen must be dropped. And that in itself will be a good starting point for Ronny and gaining redemption.



    Either bring GMS back into the mix, wide left, and move Armstrong in one to a central role. Or alternatively Commons as a direct replacement for Johansen.



    At no other club, would someone be allowed to play so many bad games consecutively.

  7. Sipsini



    I will get around to organising a date for CQN pool 2015 within the text fortnight.



    Revenge may yet be yours(:-)




  8. Ruggyman…………….We kept hearing about this guy Rosenberg but I did not expect him to be such an influential player – what a presence. This guy is in his thirties and as you say was picked up for buttons. Celtic would never go for that kind of experience.

  9. glendalystonsils on

    ruggygman on 26th August 2015 6:12 pm



    Good point. SJ has been poor for weeks but last night he was like playing a man short.

  10. Tiny Tim



    It was my wee girl, but I know you wishes are heartfelt.



    Thank you my friend!



    Mibbe meet up on 10/10?



    That would be great!

  11. We are still in Europe competition, let’s carry on with that. Would be great to be in CL group stage, but sadly not this year. That’s life. Let’s get over it and wholeheartedly get behind the Celts. No one else will. The Scottish media is probably sick that we are still in Europe and the only Scottish club left. They won’t give us any encouragement. So let us get behind the bhoys in every game. Leave the spurious arguments about Lawell and the board to shit stirrers.

  12. Never even bothered finishing P67’s Autopsy , got about half way through and it started sounding like McGonigle’s Fourth Rail Bridge jeez the hindsight pish is easy.



    The bottom line is the players and management team believed the hype fell in love with the smell of their own farts and thought they could throw the jerseys on the park, we’ve been guilty of it too many times in the past and will again in the future.

  13. Paul67



    “Where did it all go wrong?”



    Not ever for me!



    Celtic supporter ’til I die!



    C’MON THE CELTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. Joe Filippis Haircut on

    Ronny gave quite a few players the week-end off but many of them decided to have last night off as well.I think if Ronny has any chance to succeed he must move on several players and bring in two or three experienced players he hasnt got long to do it before this window closes. We will probably differ on who we want to move on but there are a few. I will continue to give Ronny the benefit of the doubt and another 12 months to see if he can qualify for the CL proper next season if he doesnt manage that im afraid it will be time for him to move on. H.H.

  15. I think Ronny should reign in Johannson a bit, he wastes an enormous amount of energy chasing lost causes.

  16. 12 months ago team V Maribor






    26 Gordon


    04 Ambrose


    03 Izaguirre


    21 Mulgrew


    23 Lustig


    05 van Dijk


    42 McGregor


    25 Johansen


    10 Stokes


    33 Kayal


    16 Berget




  17. theglasgowcelticway on

    I would like to think that if VVD is to go as expected we get it done so we can reinvest the money as quickly as possible.However,I do have concerns about the amount of signings we’ve made over the last few years which have failed.We need to start getting these right.

  18. As for quite a lot who think they know it all


    Big Cifii getting it for goodness sake he hasn’t played much first team football ie his 6/match ban.give the guy a bit of slack.look at the service Griffiths got last night nothing


    And may I add he is one lucky bhoy who should have been red carded.no Ronny’s tactics were wrong.and the players that you expect to step up on the plate.were A W O L


    I will not name names but we all know who they are.so let’s get away from making some players scapegoats.when we all know were the problems are.and for all you know alls shut your mouth’s

  19. the long wait is over on

    On reflection now with a bit of space from last night my biggest disappointment is how much more professional Malmo were in their attitude in the latter stages of the first leg and , the disallowed goal aside, almost all of last night.



    They knew last night a job had to be done and they found a way to do it.



    Very few lapses in concentration ( over the two legs we gave away three goals , maybe even all four, which were eminently avoidable) , fewer instances of lack of discipline which bordered on the amateurish (Johannsen getting sucked into an absurd spat in the dying moments of the first leg which was a major distraction when focus should have been 100% on defending a corner, Griffiths kneeing their player in the cojones which could easily have been a red card, VVD’s (admittedly soft) yellow for kicking a ball away) and overall just doing what needed to be done as hardened professionals to see the game through and get the result they needed.



    That’s my gripe. You’re well paid professionals at what is , or should be, a big club. Just get the job done.

  20. MON’s seville run came in the wake of a disastrous CL qualifying defeat to Basle – one which I remember for the disgusting Daily Record headline the next day mocking us.



    For Ronny Deila’s sake let’s hope the players have the balls to show what they’re made of.



    The most disturbing aspect of last night was that accusation by Deila that the players were not man enough to meet the challenge.



    You’d think, as a player, the opportunity to compete in the CL group stages would be the most inspiring of rewards. How anyone can want to hide when stood upon the threshold of a historical sporting event which can put your name in alsmost every household across the globe (see Tony Watt), is inconceivable and completely incompatible with the notion of beign a professional footballer.



    If RD has an inclination as to the players who couldn’t cope – or had the desire to cope with – the pressure last night, BIN THEM NOW. This is Celtic.

  21. hankray on 26th August 2015 6:31 pm



    I think Ronny should reign in Johannson a bit, he wastes an enormous amount of energy chasing lost causes.





    Agreed – rein him into the bench…

  22. the long wait is over on

    ruggygman on 26th August 2015 6:12 pm



    I’m a big fan of SJ but you’re 100% correct.



    Ronny is completely wrong, The players didn’t play last night as if they were frightened.



    The opposite – they played as if they had no fear. Of him.



    SJ was as bad for that as any.

  23. Joe Filippis Haircut on

    THE LONG WAIT IS OVER. Over the two legs Malmo worked there socks even when they were down 2-0 at Parkhead but the fact is Celtic did not work there socks off over the two games.Find out why that was the case would take you a long way towards sorting out our problems.H.H.

  24. Thought he LG incident last night was comical and very good refereeing – ref recognised the Malmo player had put himself in LG’s way, squaring up for a clash and looking for trouble. Therefore the agonised collapse had been telegraphed beforehand. Ref handled it well. Still a great watch, lol.

  25. Last night was a real shock, I genuinely didn’t think that the omnishambles that unfolded was on the cards. The damage is deeper than just being out of the CL, I was buying into the Ronnie philosophy, a system, good players, playing fast attacking football, well coached, with a full 360 approach, looking for every edge, the whole thing got torn up last night. People calling for Lawells head and for us to spend more are adopting a simplistic approach to our problems, we are neighbours to a loaded behemoth we can’t even compete with their third tier financially so we needed a clever, layered approach to developing a competitive team, again I bought into this and again it’s been torn up, we cannot spend our way out of this, we simply can’t compete financially.



    The quotes about possession are a little pointless all our possession was in non threatening areas, we lost every second phase ball and failed to exploit a competent but fairly weak side and a side that cost a fraction of ours. In terms of motivation if a professional footballer can’t motivate himself to play in the CL then he’s no use to anyone.



    Ronnies in real trouble, as every time his team is in even slightly tested he drops well short, I like the man but have now lost belief and I would never say that after one game but that was an epic shambles.

  26. Timbhoy3……………. Absolutely, Ciftci has to be given a chance. The guy is already an unfair target for the knockers.

  27. theglasgowcelticway on

    Has RD progressed since this time last year? The only reason we reached this stage last year was because the team which thumped us fielded an ineligible player for about ten minutes when the tie was already over.I thought that if it wasn’t for Gordon having an uncharacteristic poor game against Inter (forgive him that) we’d have won that tie so we were progressing.

  28. The comments made by Ronny May had been ill judged ,but in the moment understandable.The comments made by Commons IMO was mischievous ,he had time to reflect on the result/display,his mouth is nearly as big as his a–e,it is not the first time he has spoken out of turn,whatever happened to the dressing room ethos.


    IMO Ronny get rid of him.Just my opinion of course.