Where do you start with this performance? It all started brightly enough with Celtic having good possession, getting some good crosses into the box and creating a couple of half chances but then the roof caved in.
A simple misplaced pass by Boyata and 5 seconds later we were a goal down. Despite all the warnings that Molde are a counter attacking team we lost an easy goal to their first counter attack. What was also evident at that goal was the complete lack of any shape or cohesion across the back four as we tried to block the attack. Sadly, this was a feature of the whole evening with our defence being shambolic, disorganised and lacking in confidence. All three Molde goals were characterised by a lack of any defensive shape from us whilst their defence was disciplined and well-organised. When they attacked it was mainly at pace and this led to two of their goals. When we attacked it was pedestrian and this led to their keeper having NO saves to make all evening. Even the goal that we scored was as a result of an assist from a Molde defender.
Nobody in the team, or management , emerges from tonight with any credit but the one person who looked like he might possibly do something was Kris Commons. His substitution was a staggering decision, particularly when Johansen was having yet another anonymous game. Taking Johansen off and moving Commons into the middle would have been a more understandable move. Having said all that, the outburst by Commons in the dugout was unacceptable, however he was feeling. Scott Brown called it right in his post match interview saying that we’re a team and we need to go with the manager’s decisions (particularly in public!).
Whilst there’ll be a lot of froth about this for a while I think that it’s a side show. The main issue for the club is that Ronny is now at the crossroads of his Celtic career and, for the first time, is in danger of losing the confidence of a large number of fans. The Ronny experiment is not an easy one for the board to walk away from, particularly with his emphasis on developing players and changing cultures, but the repeated underperformance of his teams in big games will eventually lead to his sacking. It’s not the losing but the manner of it which hurts and it was so similar to Malmo this season and Maribor at home last season. Fans, and the board I suspect, would give him more time if they saw performances which were encouraging even if they led to defeats (eg Inter Milan last season).
A priority has to be to sort out the back four and have a settled line up. It was obvious tonight that there was no leader/organiser amongst the four of them. If Lustig isn’t fit enough to play more than once a week then, much as I like him, he shouldn’t be our first choice. Play Janko. Ambrose should be relegated to a back up position for once and for all. Better to play somebody with potential such as Blackett whilst Joso is injured. I think Boyata could be fine if he had an organiser beside him and we’ve got to hope Jozo can do this. Time for KT to be our first choice left back. Yes, he’ll make mistakes but he has the potential to improve. What is Izzy’s potential to get any better? So Janko, Joso, Boyata and Tierney as a settled line up would, I think, be an improvement on the mess that has cost us so dearly this season. Full backs are crucial to Ronny’s system which makes these changes all the more important.
The other major problem is the lack of creativity in our midfield. Again, we have promising youngsters here, Nesbit, Allen and Christie for example. I’d be inclined to start giving them a run in the team. If Ronny is to survive and be the success that we all want him to be then he needs to be bold. If his authority is bring challenged in a destructive manner by any player then they should be punted in January. If his back room staff aren’t doing the job (eg our defensive coach?!) then they should be replaced too.
The strategy I’m suggesting (youth plus a settled back four that will need time to find their feet) will test our patience as it won’t be an overnight success but it’s the one, I feel, that gives us the best chance of progressing as a team. What is clear though is that change is needed so we don’t keep living through Groundhog Day in Europe. If Ronny can’t sort it then he will be the change.