“That was a performance not befitting of Celtic,” Niall J’s damning verdict

That was a performance not befitting of Celtic…Niall J on the dreadful Celtic performance in the 2-0 defeat at home to theRangers.

Was today’s performance down to tactics, or was it an injury hit team? Was it down to an opposition who wanted it more or was it a warning shot across the bows?

It’s probably all a little too raw to look at the whole thing without disappointment clouding judgment, yet to put in a performance like today’s – no matter the circumstances – is not befitting of Celtic of that I am certain and it’s that I’m disappointed with more than losing today. The way we lost rather than losing itself.

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One thing I would immediately say is there haven’t been too may Derbies or historical Old Firm meetings over the years where Celtic have lacked for application, yet that is how it looked today. Disinterest and apathy prevailed.

Celtic were simply listless bar a 15/20-minute period in the first half and a few moments of impetus following the substitutions of Griffiths and Rogic entering the play in the second half. The pace we played at was akin to a home Scottish cup game against a lower league opposition and the saddest part of all was theRangers weren’t much better.

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The Ibrox side barely had to slip out of second gear themselves. Their defence was solid and they marshalled and controlled their backline well, yet in attack they offered little. Indeed, both goals came from a poorly conceded set piece for the first goal, followed by a second phase of a set piece for the second goal. Hardly enough to cut Celtic open and something Celtic can be forgiven for conceding from once but certainly not twice.

In short it was a dire game of football but the overarching takeaway is all is not well. There are of course mitigating circumstances. No Odsonne Edouard and Leigh Griffiths and Albian Ajeti were not up to speed enough to start. In midfield the energy of Ryan Christie was of course a miss, yet surely Olivier Ntcham is an able deputy?

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At the back three players were missing and we had to call on a youngster to fill the gaps. Despite this, two out of three defenders were first choice selections and after spending £5million on him, the goalkeeper picks himself.

Celtic have strength in depth that no other club, including our opposition, could count on so there are no excuses at all when it comes down to personnel, so why the lack of desire?

Why was Scott Brown the only man you could give a mark north of seven to in a match rating? When it wasn’t working where were the tactical changes to counter the nullifying of our approach? Yes, we altered the personnel, but where was the challenge to the team in the ascendency, when did we try and put them out their stride, when did we move from trying the same approach other than employing different players filling the same positions?

There are great concerns raised from today and much of it lies in a coaching set-up that seems to be under the thumb of the opposition. This is the third consecutive game where our nearest challengers- without the ability we can call on and without the back up in depth have been able secure – have outmanoeuvred superior players.

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Today we didn’t lay a glove on an opponent who, while the best of the rest, should not be leaving Celtic Park without at least breaking sweat.

Celtic had 10 months to prepare for an opposition who had out-thought us in the League Cup Final and at Celtic Park in December last year. You can only assume that we had a plan to counter a ‘Rangers’ approach that has deviated little, bar the narrowing of their two wide players in the past two seasons. Yet either the players aren’t responding to instruction, don’t wish too, or the ideas the coaching staff are attempting to implement are not being understood. Whatever the reasons for today this is not a one-off, this isn’t even a second warning shot, this should be a realisation that our rivals have our card marked.

We can only hope Neil Lennon and his staff have enough in their locker to respond. Yes, we may emerge victorious over the course of a season but it’s too much of a gamble to take to simply assume theRangers bottle will always crash. We have to find a way and soon of turning them over. The worrying thing about today was the lack of ideas from the bench and the pedestrian pace on the park – our park.

Leagues are never won or lost based on the first Derby of the season of course, but today was as disappointing a Derby game at Celtic Park I can remember for some time. Lessons need to be learned and solutions found. That task lies with Neil Lennon and his coaching team. There is little room left for the complacency shown today, there is too much at stake.

Over on Celtic Noise, The Celtic Star Editor posted this comment which I thought I’d share with you.

“Rodgers has a set system that was to be followed throughout the club and regardless of the opposition. That resulted in some thrashings at the hands of PSG and Barcelona but regardless everyone knew the system and their jobs within it. These beatings had to be taken on the chin, as Mowbray would say, and that system produced an unbelievable run of success that actually continues to this day.

The games against them last December resulted in widespread calls for 3-5-2 to counter their formation but we have never settled on a style and jump between different formations pretty much all the time. Today we should have started with a back four, Ntcham -McGregor-Brown in the midfield never impress as a trio, and the goalkeeper at £5m is nowhere near as good as David Marshall who we could have got for free for a season then maybe picked up Fraser Forster next summer. I made this point to Lubo98 the other night watching the Scotland game.

For the first time really, Neil Lennon’s position at the club is under real threat. There were mitigating factors today but none are going to wash with the support. Today theRangers looked like title winners. Celtic have to respond as a matter of urgency to that.”

Niall J

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 the finest gift anyone ever gave me when he walked me through Parkhead's gates.

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