It’s 7.40pm on Tuesday night. It’s been roughly 2 hours now since the match finished and I still cannot quite believe what I’ve witnessed. Celtic was out fought by a side ranked lower in 324th in UEFA rankings. To put that into some kind of context, in 320th is Queen of The South!!!!
Now, every dog can have its day, we seen that last year when Barcelona came to town. The problem tonight is, that night seems like an awfully long time ago!
Within those 2 hours, Twitter is awash with folk angry at what they witnessed. They are right to be. You are right to be. I am right to be. It was appalling. But what I cannot accept is that this result is the fault of the board!!
Now before I go on, I’ve only been writing for a month or so and in that time it has been said that I am some kind of Lawwell sympathiser who acts as a defender of the board no matter what. Allow me to make this clear, as I said before, if come the 3rd September Celtic are not in the Champions League and either as a cause or a consequence, the squad is weaker than last year, I will be firmly at the front of the queue demanding answers and apologies. We do need to make signings, I’ve said that before and I’m reiterating it.
Tonight though, that is not the fault of the board. That lies firmly at the feet of those who took the field and the manager. This Celtic squad should have more about them than anything that side could muster. There is also one other important question:
If Finnbogason had been signed and was on that pitch tonight, how many of those who played would have been left out?? 1!!!
So that leaves 10 culprits. 10 players who would all still have played the way they did, poorly. I refuse to include the substitutes in it because for some reason which hasn’t been reported we were under a curfew by UEFA which stated we couldn’t make a sub till the last quarter of the match. Indeed. Amido Balde showed more fight in going to retrieve the ball at every goal kick they had than most players did throughout the rest of the game.
Let’s look at the culprits:
Tonight was a real chance for him. He was being shown live across England on terrestrial television. A chance indeed, to show that he could replace Blow Hart in goals for the national side! Did he take it? Nope and it wasn’t all he didn’t grasp. For the 1st goal my initial reaction was simply, why is the goalkeeper standing on his line when the ball is surely within his reach? He looked like a 5 a side keeper who can’t cross the line of his wee semi-circle penalty box. It wasn’t the only time either, as he looked suspect every time the ball came into his area. Even his decision making was baffling. Early in the game it was apparent that he was struggling to kick a back pass on this plastic pitch. (I’ll get to that in a minute) I then watched in disgust midway through the half when with the ball in his hands he places it on the ground to launch it up field. Lo and behold, he scuffs it again. It’s in your hands…….just punt it!!!
I’m not gonna bore you or myself analysing them separately. They were all hopeless together. There was no cohesion, no element of control and no indication that this was a game which in reality, they shouldn’t be particularly troubled in. the biggest issue I think was that, they believed the last part of that, so didn’t bother their backsides showing up. For the 1st goal, there’s no communication, no big shout as one takes the decision to go and clear the ball out. Then you have Izzaguirre facing the ball and not paying attention to where his man is, leaving the forward the run. When he had quite possibly the best chance of the match, Emilio, instead of being composed enough to look up and think…..this is on my right foot, I’ve got players inside, I should probably let an attack minded player hit this…..he thought….HAVE IT!!!
The Middle 3
Brown, Ledley & Mulgrew. 3 players who in the past few years have enjoyed the highs and the lows of being at Celtic. 3 guys who know what it takes to succeed and know what is expected to stay there. Yet tonight, they decided, like many others, to play like an 8 year old on trial for the school team. I noticed at the weekend that Scott Brown was trying to push further forward and be more attacking. WHY?? This is as crazy as the decision that Tony Watt is a left winger. Scott Brown has been working that engine room perfectly for 2 or 3 seasons now, and it’s his area of the park, why are we trying to change that? It has a knock on effect because now Ledley, who normally is the more attacking midfielder and indeed our better goal threat, is having to cover. And all perhaps affected by the need to play Mulgrew somewhere.
Where do I start on this one? Ever since the day he stepped into the 1st team I’ve had my concerns about whether or not he is one dimensional. The right sided McGeady however seems to be doing all he can to convince me I’m correct. It appears that if he can’t retract his neck, slump his back and knock the ball past a full back, he’s as much use as a half asleep Vidar Riseth. He now seems to spend more time with his arms in the air moaning because someone dared touch him. He offered nothing and after about 5 minutes of the match, it was obvious that they were playing a flat back 5 with a tight midfield, therefore no room in the wide areas to continually hit the bye line. With that, Forrest is giving nothing. He then had a great chance to equalise and headed straight at the keeper. Granted, he is about the height of Rafael….but he should still have redirected that header.
I am Sammy’s number 1 fan, but tonight he offered nothing. Again, however, that could easily be put down to being played up front. We discovered last year that he is a winger or support striker at best. Being isolated up front on his own is not going to get the best out of him. His touch was off, he had no one to flick onto and the chemistry that we have seen in recent years with Hooper is not there with Commons. In the final 10 minutes he got on the ball more on the left than he had in the previous 80.
I’ve omitted Commons from the list as he was the only Celt to get a 6/10. He worked hard to find space, got a couple shots away and to his credit played the perfect teammate when stepped aside at the free kick late on, although why Van Dijk hit it rather than Commons or Mulgrew is way beyond me.
Then we come to the main culprit and person responsible for tonight:
The team line-up at first glance seemed fair enough. Not too much different to the winning side from the weekend, 4-4-1-1. That was until we got to see what he should surely have been aware of prior to kick off. The way that they set up! Once it was apparent that they play with 3 big centre backs as two tight full backs, surely it was clear that Samaras was not the best option.
I’ve already mentioned that Forrest playing offered very little. Again, Lennon should have known the way they would set up and therefore should have known what was required. Playing 2 new central defenders as a partnership at the heart of a defence in such a big match was always going to be risky. The biggest issue with all of this is that just last season Lennon saw what happens when you take risks with your defence in big games, Efe Ambrose v Juventus anyone??
What we all know is that Sammy cannot play as a loan striker; he needs to play off another front man. Instead we played what was basically a 4-6-0. Against a 5-4-1!!! It defies belief. If only we had had a powerful frontman, potentially one we have just paid 2 million quid for??? Now I am not a professional footballer, indeed I’m not even a junior, but what I do have is a pair of eyes in my head. Why the hell would it take 80 minutes to make a change that everyone could see?
Perhaps he gets more like Martin O’Neill every year. For Alan Thompson, read Charlie Mulgrew!!
Now that I have got that out of my system I will say I still fancy us to get through next week. For that I would like us to adopt a 4-2-4. Boerrigter and Commons on opposite sides of Samaras and either Stokes or Balde. Ledley and Brown sat in the middle of the park. Mulgrew playing on the left of defence in place of Emilio.
I repeat, we are more than good enough to beat them 3, 4 or 5 nil. Should that not be the case and we are playing Europa League football, then all those questions of the board, the players and the manager will get bigger and bigger and bigger.
I hope that the club do not have the brass neck to release an entire ad campaign begging us to all spend £25 to roar the boys on. In an empty stadium, in front of nobody, Celtic should beat Karagandy 3-0. The club should perhaps stop begging us and start providing supporters something worth paying for.
As I said, I am not a mouthpiece for the board, I’m a fan willing to wait and see……….however my moans are growing into growls after tonight.
The Newton Sammy (@TheNewtonSammy)