A point saved – Rodgers showed his tactical nous switching to 3-5-2

Brendan proved his tactical nous back at Celtic switching to 3-5-2…

One of the main reasons we got something from last night’s game was the tactical shuffle by Brendan Rodgers. Celtic were very much the better side in the game, but it was pretty evident that we started to tire around the hour mark as Atletico Madrid eyed an unlikely away win after and despite a dominant first half  from the Hoops it was the visitors who had gained the initiative in the match and were pressing for a winner.

It wasn’t really surprising considering the effort we put into the game, and it looked like Atletico might expose us until a tactical intervention by Brendan Rodgers. The Irishman took off the tiring Luis Palma and replaced him with Nat Phillips. It was a surprise to everyone in the ground, but in the end it very likely won us a point.

Brendan made a big call and got it absolutely spot on, he could see what was happening and quickly rectified the situation. It’s what top coaches do. Diego Simone also did something similar at the break and I think it’s fair to say Atletico shaded the second half, got their equaliser and were pushing for a winner until the crucial tactical adjustment from the Celtic manager.

Brendan seems to have learned lessons from his last spell in charge of the club regarding European football. He’s a much better manager for it, and the added experience of his spell down south with Leicester City has further improved his knowledge of the game.

Celtic v Hibernian – cinch Premiership – Celtic Park Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou waves to fans as he arrives at Celtic Park before the match at Celtic Park on: Saturday March 18, 2023. Photo Steve Welsh

We were gutted when Ange Postecoglou left, but we have just as good a manager in Brendan. But here’s the thing. Ange told us many times that he didn’t have a Plan B and his teams would always play the same way. Accordingly Ange would not have in all likelihood changed shape to deal with the opponent’s thread and his own team tiring.  Would Ange’s tactics have got us a point last night? Probably not.

In both recent Champions League campaigns under and Ange Postecoglou and Brendan Rodgers we have been at our most vulnerable in the last quarter of the match. Changing to 3-5-2 seemed to stem the tide and it’s maybe a lesson we can learn from going forward.

Get a lead then lock the back door is maybe more pragmatic but it’s certainly better than being the Champions League unlucky losers.

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About Author

An ordinary everyday Celtic supporters hailing and still residing in Govan in the shadows of the enemy. I’m a season ticket holder. I Witnessed my first Celtic game in 1988 and have attended when I can ever since. Growing up in the 90s I witnessed Celtic at their lowest, and now appreciate the historic success we enjoy today. I enjoy writing about this wonderful football club and hopefully will continue to do so. I’ve always been a keen writer and initially started this a hobby. My ambition is to one day become as good an author as my fellow Celtic Star colleagues.


  1. Agree.
    Best European performance in many years.
    Hopefully the doubters and neersayers will realise that Rodgers has a long term plan and is capable of bringing the best out of the squad.
    Scales gaining in confidence with every game.
    Natural left footer giving more options to Celtic’s game plan.
    Hail Hail.

  2. Agree completely, but I thought the change was also to make Greg Taylor less the weak link, as he had been up until then. Its unfortunate, because I think when we get to this level, its as much about him losing his confidence than lack of ability.

  3. Francis O'Donnell, PhD. on

    I disagree with the writer because that change in formation has never been used by Rodgers this year in any match. Suddenly, changing to an unused formation against a team of this caliber. In addition, the selections of both Phillips and Forrest I thought was bizarre. Phillips had not really been included in the team since the last CL match, playing only as a substitute once for CCV. You could see his distribution was poor even when Athletico went down to ten players and this loss of an Athletico player was the real changing point in the match. Forrest contributed nothing; in fact, he had an opportunity and skied it over. Celtic never realized the same momentum they had in the first half. The appropriate change should have been Iwata for Bernardo and moving Scales to left back (removing Taylor) with the young Swede or Phillips at CB. Holm was not even on the bench! On Rodgers initial roster he had left out the young Polish defender another mistake.