The lads on BT Sport correctly expressed their amazement at the bizarre changes that have taken place since the end of the last season and now. The triumphant rise of Moussa Dembélé, has been accompanied with an attacking midfield line which is also in full flow making it hard for Brendan Rodgers to accept that he should play with two strikers. Scott Sinclair, who thrives cutting in from the left and playing alongside the lone frontman may actually falter in a more traditional left wing role in a 4-4-2, as despite fluffing a few gilt edged opportunities in the last few games, he has still managed to add to a significant goal tally thus far. A 4-2-2-2 wide formation would seem like an option, but it is possible that Celtic could lose their domination of midfield, and high-pressing game of a CAM such as Rogic or Armstrong.
The last four domestic games Celtic have not conceded, something which has massively improved from the beginning of the season, this may perhaps be another reason for Rodgers’ reluctance to use two strikers. Indeed, playing with two strikers is somewhat of a dying art in British football, Leicester did well with it last season, but this season seem to have been totally figured out, and Watford playing a hitman and finisher style with Ighalo and Deeney.
The game at Ross County wouldn’t have changed this very much, with Leigh Griffiths leaving the referee with a decision to be made when embroiled with one of their defenders, with a leg swinging out. He was playing in that typical Leigh Griffiths aggressive style, on the edge, even if his first yellow card was inconspicuous enough (others would say ridiculous).
Leigh himself cut a frustrated figure when he was subbed off for Nir Bitton of all people. He must be a man wondering what he has to do to earn his place in the starting eleven for both Celtic and Scotland. There was a significant period of time after his arrival where he was forced to sit on the bench and over time gained the respect of Ronny Deila and improved sufficiently in the areas in which Ronny thought he lacked. Ronny’s faith was repaid with him scoring a barrel load of goals last season. With Scotland, of course, he changed his twitter handle to “#shorty”, after comments made by Gordon Strachan about wanting his team to be tall to counter aerial threats. It’s a poor excuse, England are hardly a massive team but coast through qualifiers, also has he seen Griffiths in the air? It’s an area of his game where he has improved massively and Scotland looked far more likely to score a goal in the few minutes remaining against Slovakia when he came on.
On the plus side, his assist for Dembélé against the team from Ibrox was perfectly weighted and showed a strikers understanding as to exactly where Dembélé would want the ball. Perhaps the performance that himself and Dembélé put together when he came on on Sunday, will provide Rodgers with the confidence that this partnership holds weight.
It wouldn’t of course be in the interests of any Celtic fan if Dembélé was to go on a barren run of form but there is no doubt that this is a thought which will have at some point probably entered Griffiths’ mind. Griffiths made a mess of a chance in the last few minutes of the Rangers game opting incorrectly for the chip option which Gilks was able to save easily enough with his right hand. That is not to suggest that Dembélé that had a fantastic cup semi-final, his goal was greeted with a major sigh of relief, he easily could have had a few more.
Dembélé’s last minute goal against Ross County added to his impressive tally, the only upside to which in Griffiths mind will have been that it was a bit of a freebie, Dembélé really couldn’t have missed.
I was delighted to see him start versus Ross County but when I saw the rest of the team I understood why he was playing. To beat Ross County 4-0 after making eight changes was a fantastic result, even if it did slightly flatter Celtic, as it wasn’t until the eighty-third minute that Armstrong’s beautiful goal made it two nil. It was proof that rotation is possible, indeed it is a must, as our calendar is jam packed from now until at least Christmas.
We have ten games in twenty eight days in December! If the rotation players play to their ability then it is totally realistic to expect nothing less than the three points from each domestic game. There will be plenty of chances for Griffiths this season, if he doesn’t start a game it would be expected that we would see him in the second half at least, when the games begins to become more open.
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