1. Faith in the system is justified.
Brendan Rodgers has stressed that jettisoning our possession-based system in favour of a more pragmatic style, is at best a short-term fix, and not something that will see Celtic compete at the elite level on a consistent basis. If mauling’s at the hands of Bayern and PSG have dampened this thinking, then last night’s display went some distance to assure the fanbase. A colossal defensive cock-up and a momentary lapse in concentration aside, Celtic were astounding, limiting the Bavarians to pot-shots from distance, whilst creating a plethora of chances ourselves. Some of the attacking play was truly exceptional, two or three moves were created with such a blend of technical subtlety, precision and intelligence that they wouldn’t have been out of place in a Pep Guardiola side.
2. Forrest the enigma.
James Forrest, by far, is the most infuriating player to have pulled on the hooped shirt in the last decade. Time and time again his form dips into such sunken troughs, that you feel assured in disregarding him, only for the winger to produce a stirring performance. On a pitch alongside the likes of James Rodriguez, Arjen Robben and Kingsley Coman, it was Forrest who produced the evening’s most dynamic display. Time and time again the winger showed a bravery, that has been all too absent from his game, beating players with a combination of speed and skill. His usual, entirely predictable shtick of getting to the by-line and hitting an aimless cross was abandoned for more mature thinking. Cutting inside to link play, bombing down the line, clipping thoughtful crosses, feints, flicks and dummies, such variety in his game was a delight to witness. His night was rounded off with a wonderful assist for Calum McGregor’s equalizer.
Hopefully last night’s performance signifies a new dawn for the winger.
3. Tierney is the real deal.
Every Celtic fan knows the qualities that Kieran Tierney possesses, but for the wider footballing community, his pedigree can only be established on the continental stage. Last night was a seminal evening for the future captain, coping admirably with everything that Robben, one of the finest players of his generation, could muster, whilst also making himself an attacking presence. What was most pleasing about last night was witnessing Tierney instructing those around him, gesticulating with a calm authority. At a time when football is plagued with comments that there are “no leaders anymore” Tierney bucking the perceived trend is a welcome sight.
4. Sinclair doubts himself at this level.
Since scoring on his debut against Hearts last season, Sinclair has been the side’s talisman, the player the team looks to feed the ball to at any opportunity, the player who you assume will score. Domestically Sinclair has lived up to the bargain, winning last season’s player of the year award. This season, whilst failing to scale the heights of the last campaign, he has still contributed with a steady supply of goals. In the Champions League however, Sinclair looks out of sorts. He ghosts around the park bereft of confidence, worried that he doesn’t possess the qualities needed to succeed in the sport’s most demanding arena. Even his solitary group stage goal, away at Anderlecht, came in the dying embers of the game when a victory was all but ensured. Sinclair has all the requisite talent needed to perform in the Champions League, perhaps he just needs a reminder of this from Rodgers with a soothing arm around the shoulder.
5. An upgraded Goalkeeper is needed.
The old adage that, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, looks to be more and more applicable to Celtic’s Craig Gordon with each passing week. To his immense credit he has, in the autumnal stage of his career, at least tried to implement the desires expressed by Rodgers. Building from the back and maintaining possession is intrinsic if Celtic are to prosper, but whenever Gordon gets on the ball, the panic spreading throughout both the team and the stands is palpable. His laconic passing style is quickly replaced with aimless hoofing whenever pressure is applied. This huge flaw in his game, allied with a worrying tendency to rampage wildly from his penalty area, is probably enough to prompt Rodgers into looking for a successor.
Tottenham’s Michel Vorm is a player Celtic could express an interest in.