Tactical explanation for Celtic targeting two right wingers

Between Jota and Liel Abada who garnered the most minutes on the right wing for Celtic last season, the pair scored 28 goals and registered 21 assists across all competitions.

This would indicate to any logical football fan that the right side of Brendan Rodgers attack next season is in extremely healthy shape, but if it is, why are Celtic in talks with two different right wingers?

Celtic v Ross County – Sead Hakšabanović  celebrates scoring the winning goal of the game during the cinch Premiership match at Celtic Park, Saturday November 12, 2022. Photo Steve Welsh

Under Ange Postecoglou, Celtic for the most part either operated with Sead Hakšabanović or Daizen Maeda on the left wing. While Liel Abada and Jota were Ange’s two preferred options on the right with Rocco Vata and James Forrest used sparingly last season.

Although there are similarities to how Rodgers and Postecoglou set their teams up, such as both managers emphasising a high pressing game, there are subtle differences or “tweaks” as Rodgers labelled it when asked how far he would stray from the current sides style of play at the Celtic fan media press conference a couple of days ago.

Ange Postecoglou liked his wingers to start as wide as possible when Celtic were in possession, allowing for his full backs to invert and operate in the half spaces. While Rodgers prefers his wingers to be narrower with emphasis on cutting inside, to allow his full backs to overlap on the outside.

Photo by Luke Nickerson/Rangers FC/Shutterstock – Jota of Celtic scores our third goal Celtic v theRangers, Cinch Scottish Premiership,Celtic Park, – 08 Apr 2023

Jota and Sead Hakšabanović being natural left wingers who like to cut in on their stronger right foot means they are well suited to this approach from the returning Irishman, but the same cannot be said for the other side of Celtics attack.

Liel Abada – Liel Abada of Celtic during the Viaplay League Cup Final between theRangers and Celtic at Hampden on February 26, 2023 (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Liel Abada is a modern winger, a goal scorer who likes to venture into the six-yard box and attack an oncoming cross or cutback. His game could transform under Rodgers next season if he remains at the club amid transfer speculation surrounding his future.

Ross County v Celtic – Premier Sports Cup – Second Round – Global Energy Stadium Celtic s James Forrest scores their side s fourth goal of the game during the Premier Sports Cup second round match on  Wednesday August 31, 2022. Photo Trevor Martin

James Forrest’s game reached unprecedented levels when the Irishman joined Celtic the first time, with Rodgers teaching the academy graduate to cut inside and use his left foot to great success.

This is something Abada occasionally does but given the opportunity under Rodgers, it is something he could perfect in order to make his style of play much more difficult to contend with.

However, Celtic would still lack another natural option on the right wing even if Abada does remain at the club.

South Korean K League soccer match Seongnam FC vs Incheon United FC in Seongnam. Yang Jun-Ah 2nd R of Incheon United FC in action against Kim Hyun-Sung R of Seongnam FC as Incheon United FC s goalkeeper Lee Tae-Hui watches during their K League 1 soccer match at Tancheon Sports Complex in Seongnam, south of Seoul, South Korea, September 27, 2020. Photo by Jaewon Lee Seongnam SOUTH KOREA

Thus why bids have been made for Yang Hyun-Jun of Gangwon FC in the K League and Marco Tilio of Melbourne City in the A-League respectively. The latter seemingly an imminent arrival at the club.

Marco Tilio of Melbourne City FC controls the ball on the run during the A-League Men s football match between Melbourne City FC and Central Coast Mariners FC at the CommBank Stadium on June 03, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. Photo by Damian Briggs/Speed Media/Icon Sportswire SOCCER: JUN 03 A-League – Melbourne City FC v Central Coast Mariners FC

Tilio would offer a different dynamic for Celtic on the right wing, a left footer with the natural instinct of cutting inside. Something Celtic have not had since Patrick Roberts was at the club during Rodgers first stint in Glasgow.

Celtic’s treble winning squad is strong, but as Rodgers has said himself, “tweaks” are needed in order for the club to make an impact in Europe.

Improvements on the right-hand side of the park will play its part in striving to achieve this.

James French – Follow James on Twitter @ffrench1967

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1 Comment

  1. James

    “with Rodgers teaching the academy graduate to cut inside and use his left foot to great success”

    James Forrest had been cutting inside and using his left foot since he was in primary school. He was 25 years old when Brendan came to Celtic. If he needed to be taught this, he’d never have been near Albion Rovers never mind Celtic. Brendan helped James, no doubt, but the extent of the help is grossly exaggerated.

    James had frustrated because he was so often injured- it happens to young explosive wingers who need to manage their hammies. Brendan did not overplay James, in contrast to others who played him while injured, as he had Paddy Roberts to spell for him. The only feature that Brendan increased as opposed to introduced in James’s skillset was the stand-up cross. He encouraged James not to speed past and throw a cross in anywhere but to beat a man, then slow down and stand it up to the back post. It wasn’t new to James but he had been guilty of under using it. James had his best seasons as a) He was healthy more regularly, b) He was pressured by Paddy Roberts and James saw the challenge off and c) The coach did not break his body 3 times a season by overplaying him.