Opinion – If Celtic lock the back door Wizard of Oz can bring home The Ten

This was good from Celtic today was it not? Four goals, a hat-trick hero, a playmaker purring and a captain protecting and snarling in front of his central defenders. From an attacking perspective Celtic were creative and then clinical. From a defensive perspective it remains a work in progress.

Kris Ajer, somewhat surprisingly, was fit enough to return today and it will have helped Duffy to be removed from the starting line-up, for now at least. Ajer’s comeback meant the balance with Nir Bitton looked assured in the middle, especially the distribution from the back which was superb throughout.

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Yet the defensive work as a team is still a concern, we remain coughing up fouls around our box, conceding unnecessary corner kicks and allowing ourselves to be peppered with set pieces. We also still remain weak when dealing with those dead balls, as we saw from the goal conceded today. In a 4-1 win it’s a minor concern, yet it has been a season long issue and one we need to get to grips with. It really is our Achilles heel.

Considering the pressure the players would have been under, after such a dreadful display in midweek, it’s fair to say the team responded well and Lennon has clearly been able to get the reaction he asked for. It can only bode well.

From an attacking perspective Lennon’s brave decision to bring in Albian Ajeti as the focal point of the attack paid off. His pickpocket approach to attacking could have bought himself a goal. Instead, his countryman Elyounoussi benefited from Ajeti’s strike coming back off the post, but the striker showed on form and in a system with one striker the shirt has to be his, for now at least.

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Ajeti’s work rate is phenomenal as he presses from the front, he demands a lot from himself and just as much from his teammates. He’ll take the hits and link the play and when it comes to it, he’s a finisher too. If we can just get him up to 90-minute terms we have a diamond in Ajeti and Odsonne Edoaurd has much needed competition. That can only benefit them both.

The midfield and forwards all played well today in attacking moves there was a real balance. Elyounoussi and Lazalt have built up a partnership, Moi can also link well with Rogic and Ajeti. With those players, relationships are building.

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On the other side it’s still to click but it’s getting there. Frimpong and Christie are not quite on the same wavelength but it will come, and with Rogic to come and assist they don’t have to rely entirely on each other.

Moi Elyounoussi’s performance today, with three goals and probably more chances created, will no doubt get the headlines, and so he should, following in like a striker for the first and the climbing header for the hat-trick were all superb, but the performance of Tom Rogic made the frontline tick. His assist for Moi’s second was world class.

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There can remain no doubt that Rogic needs to be managed to maximise his time on the grass. If there is one solitary difference to the potency of Celtic as an attacking force it’s Tom Rogic. His teammates trust him completely. You now get the impression his manager might now be following suit.

The third goal today came from a delivery from Hatem Elhamed, yet the fact he was on the field at all came down to a foul from Motherwell’s Devante Cole. Well, when you say foul, you think more of a frustrated assault on Jeremy Frimpong. It was high, it was out of control and in any game, other than one refereed by Andrew Dallas it’s a straight red card. Dallas even seemed to be between two minds as to whether to flash a yellow. The Motherwell bench knew better. It was their best moment of game management this afternoon when they hooked the offender soon after.

Do referee assessors get tickets for these games? Not that it matters, they’d probably just mark him down for issuing the yellow.

It’s moments like that foul today, alongside the excellence in attack, which Neil Lennon has to channel.

Celtic won convincingly today. This was as close to a 90-minuteperformance as we’ve had at a domestic level, but Andrew Dallas performance throughout should be part of any post-match analysis.

Celtic need to create a siege mentality. On the park we are on our own, off it we’re treated with imbalance also, as was evidenced by the discrepancies shown for Covid breaches by the authorities this week.

Celtic need to circle the wagons and look after ourselves. Some work on defending set-pieces should be on the Lennoxtown rota, morning noon and night until we get to grips with defending our area. While we struggle, we at least need to limit the silly fouls and corners conceded. Do that and our attacking players can take the risks they need to in the final third.

Get that sorted and Tom Rogic can relax and paint his on-field pictures. Lock the back door and our Wizard of Oz has the ability to bring home the Ten.

Niall J

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About Author

As a Bellshill Bhoy I was taken to my first Celtic game in the summer of 1987. It was Billy McNeill’s return to Celtic Park as manager and Celtic lost 5-1 to Arsenal . I thought I was a jinx, I think my Grandfather might have thought the same. It was finest gift anyone ever gave me when he walked me through Parhead's gates.

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