Neil Lennon got it wrong today. When he was appointed I was sceptical, he proved me wrong and has done a phenomenal job since taking over from Brendan Rodgers but the Leicester manager’s ruthlessness was needed today. Rodgers was a constant tinkerer with shape and tactics yet today, Lennon appeared stagnant in face of Gerrard’s tactical superiority.
Celtic should have been set up to press them high and dominate the midfield. Instead, we sat off and Davis, Kamara and Jack dictated the game. The 3v2 from the final was apparent and we were spread so thin meaning Rangers could exploit the wide areas as well as centrally due to McGregor and Brown effectively marshalling 4 men. The shape and lineup was wrong, in hindsight you may say, but after Hampden we needed to review how we set up against Rangers. In a virtually unchanged XI, Katic for Helander the only changes, Celtic should’ve known how Rangers would set up. The fact that they allowed it to happen again, is either arrogance or negligence.
Christie missed a pen but it happens. Two clearances off the line from Jullien – another day, like Hampden, we could’ve won. But we didn’t so hopefully it’s a wake up call.
Rangers scored from a free header and an unmarked run. The first was a good goal, Kent took his goal well, why he was not tracked goes back to the earlier point about the midfield being overrun. He was able to ghost through and slot the ball in. Meanwhile, Frimpong for all his desire and brilliance was beaten by one thing he can’t control – experience.
We made the necessary tactical changes after they scored but by that time they had gone into siege mode, but still looking threatening on the break. They could’ve scored a third had Morelos pulled the trigger and not sought a penalty.
Their mentality was typified by Arfield running down the line to tell McGregor to go down, feigning an injury so that Gerrard could give another team talk. They were cynical and deserved everything they got.
What really has me confused is one change that was made. The first two of Ntcham and Bitton made sense. But you’ve got Rogic sat on the bench when you repeatedly turn to a striker that’s not kicked his own backside in over a year. Whenever he’s been called upon he has been offering nothing – compare that with their second choice striker. His shooting from a narrow free kicks sums it up, really. He needs game time and should be looking to get a loan move in January if we recruit appropriately.
We have too many passengers at the moment, for me, James Forrest has been poor for weeks and today, looked anonymous. Bolingoli looked really suspect on the ball and being caught out of possession on numerous occasions. Arguably, this is to do with the lack of shape but he appeared off the pace, poor in possession but at least was willing to put a foot in. Despite that, I wonder what Greg Taylor is thinking.
Another point that I’ve been meaning to make for some time is that I wonder if we’ll ever face them with a fully fit team. We constantly play without at least one player that could be considered a starter. Today, Hatem Abd Elhamed and Moi Elyounoussi would’ve probably made the starting XI but due to injuries weren’t in the team. Earlier this month, Lewis Morgan and Jonny Hayes we’re forced into unnatural positions in the victorious League Cup Final.
Unfortunately, we didn’t learn the lessons from the lucky victory at Hampden and today, we got what we deserved – outfoxed and we saw it coming.
Onwards and upwards, today was poor but it’ll make the victories on the way to 9 in a row.