NEIL LENNON has shown that he has a tactical sense.
One of the key points against Neil Lennon is that tactical weaknesses are always present and that the new game has left him behind.
The proof of this theory is the way in recent Old Firm games, Rangers have managed to stifle Celtic, and how Lennon has struggled to battle Steven Gerrard’s 4-3-3 scheme that before Saturday saw them dominate the three Glasgow derbies.
On Friday, Lennon himself addressed that problem, acknowledging it was a headache for him, but it turned out his 4-4-2 scheme worked well as Celtic took control of the game in the first hour.
Odsonne Edouard and Leigh Griffiths put the full backs of the Rangers under pressure, and the diamond in the midfield nipped the back three of David Turnbull’s opposition to Steven Davis in the bud, pushing the Ibrox eleven into long balls that Kris Ajer and Nir Bitton gladly sucked up.
The tactical changes provided the opportunity for Celtic to dominate the game, but they were unable to turn that superiority into goals.
When you’re on top, you have to score a goal.
It’s one of the oldest clichés of soccer of all time, but for good reason. In the first hour at Ibrox, Celtic clearly had to turn their dominance into something countable, and their inability to do so cost them almost as much as Bitton’s red card.
While they had a strong opponent in the form of Allan McGregor, the excellent Rangers goalkeeper, there were countless possibilities where the pressure of Celtic around the Rangers penalty area did not result in a scoring chance or a shot on target. Which will take us to the next point….
CELTIC needs more consistency from its external backstrokes
Although the tactical set-up of Lennon was good and put Celtic ahead, the dependency on the full-backs to provide attacking width was one of the weak points of the scheme.
It wasn’t that Diego Laxalt and Jeremie Frimpong were not enthusiastic runners and, as anticipated, consistently created room on the flanks.
The only problem was that, unfortunately, the vital final ball was still missing and they didn’t even give their strikers anything for long stretches of the game to attack.
Edouard and Griffiths were especially clearly frustrated by Laxalt, struggling to get past the first man with a cross even though he had time and room, and Frimpong even made them look into the sky in frustration at times when their runs could not be spotted.
Celtic players seem to be adjusting well to the new system, but if it’s really to be effective, the full-back players will have to play their last ball a lot better.
Will recent results and this performance be sufficient to save LENNON?
This loss and the way it came about, on its own, is a very bad reason to doubt the future of the manager. Especially because on the back of five straight wins in the league, Celtic had gone into the game.
The problem, however, as many fans were quick to point out, is that on January 2 that would determine the title, Celtic were not even expected to play a game. This season was about making history, and it was probably Celtic’s most important campaign in decades. The fact that before the Christmas decorations came down, the team was already out of the title race is an indictment of the season’s start.
It was the stretch from mid-October to early December that saw them pick up just two out of 12 wins in all competitions and just one out of five wins in the league, which could potentially cost Lennon his job and a tenth straight victory for Celtic.
Nevertheless, as the protests outside Celtic Park grew, Dermot Desmond and Peter Lawwell stood by their man then, so they would continue to stand their ground in the promised examination of Lennon’s place in January, particularly as his side seemed to have turned the corner.
It remains to be seen if it’s too little, too late.
It might be time for SHANE DUFFY to cut its losses.
The large defender was not the reason for Saturday’s Celtic loss, but his performance summed up the nightmare that he’s been at the club since his Brighton loan.
There was a crazy foul on Ryan Kent that could easily have taken his teammates down, not to mention the fact that if the ball is near his feet, he looks like a bundle of nerves. His attempt to play a pass that nearly led to the second goal for the Rangers with the outside of his foot had all the hallmarks of a man who just didn’t want the ball.
It’s as unfair as watching a guy who plays at such a high level f