Celtic are well behind the position they should be at this stage of the football cycle which started in the summer of 2014. This week’s two defeats are a symptom of that. A year ago, then-new signings Armstrong and Mackay-Stevens contributed to two highly credible performances against Inter Milan, which indicated we were on a positive trajectory, but pretty much every available indication since has pointed south.
Aberdeen were poor in the first half last night, but shortly before their opening goal om 31 minutes I noted that they were defending comfortably, despite our dominance. We had not made a chance which tested them. We often need a lot of possession before the goals flow.
There is a flip side to that ratio. We often lose a lot of goals compared to the possession we allow opponents. All teams take a direct approach to attacking Celtic – get it forward and shoot. Better still, win a corner. Football games are about two things: scoring goals and not conceding goals. Some work is being done on the former but I’m concerned our shape does not accommodate the achievement of the latter.
We’ve kept 4 clean sheets (Kilmarnock, St Johnstone, Partick, Stranraer ) in the 18 games since beating Dundee United 5-0 in October. Only Thistle (1-0), Dundee (6-0) and Dundee United (5-0) have lost at Celtic Park without scoring since…………… Ross County on 1 August.
Records will show that yet again we lost a crucial goal at a corner kick. What will be lost in time is the sheer panic caused by the Aberdeen corners which didn’t result in a goal. I’ve never seen a team defend set pieces so poorly over such an extended period.
There could be many reasons why we’re not in the Champions League knock out stages right now, but I’m sure the reasons we’re not comfortably ahead in the league is that defensively, our shape and organisation is not good enough. We concede too much space in dangerous areas. This is why we’re not miles ahead of a team with vastly weaker resources.
On the way forward:
It’s of the upmost importance we win the league. As it stands, we will achieve this. Colin Kazim-Richards, despite being of journeyman-pro stock, gave us a dimension we’ve not had in 18 months. He, Kris Commons, Ryan Christie, Patrick Roberts and Erik Sviatchenko will all have a positive impact on the remainder of the season.
Ronny has got a lot wrong, but he was right about one thing after the game last night, “The players need the fans’ support”. Those who suggest that anytime is a good time for recriminations probably don’t have a good grasp on the complexities of any given situation. There will be plenty of time for recrimination in June, right now, we need to keep our eye on the prize.
Win the league, then we’ll talk.