This Celtic side under Ange Postecoglou are one of the best we’ve seen in years. Just ask Derek McInnes who witnessed the Hoops at close quarters at the weekend and saw exactly what they’re capable of.
Speaking after his Kilmarnock side fell to a 2-0 defeat at Celtic Park on Saturday, McInnes said: “I’ve come here to play against various Celtic teams over the years and maybe none as good as this one”.
Comparing them to Brendan Rodger’s “Invincibles” of 2016/17 he continued: “I don’t want to be disparaging to that team who proved themselves – they were unbelievably relentless. But this Celtic team have a lot of players at the right age with improvement in them. There’s a lot of hunger and intensity about them – they don’t let you breathe.”
McInnes should know better than most how the two teams compare given that his Aberdeen side were Celtic’s closest competitors back in Rodger’s debut season. Celtic ultimately won out over the Dons across all three domestic competitions that year. Pipping them (by a mere thirty points) to the league title and then defeating them in both domestic cup finals.
The image of Tom Rogic waltzing his way through the Aberdeen defence to seal the invincible treble at Hampden on 27 May 2017 is perhaps remembered by McInnes as much as it’s remembered by Celtic fans.
The Ange Machine v Brendan Rodgers Invincibles
So just how does that all conquering side of Brendan Rodgers compare to the relentless attacking machine that we now see under Ange Postcoglou? Rodgers of course spent the best part of two and a half years at Celtic Park before jumping ship.
Before doing so however he claimed two Scottish Premiership titles, two Scottish Cups & two League Cups in a period of utter domination for the club. Let’s look at some of the key players each manager had/has available to them.
Rodgers’ side were marshalled by a rejuvenated Scott Brown who played some of the best football of his Celtic career during this spell. Spearheading the attack was the phenomenal Moussa Dembele who would go on to score 32 goals in all competition, including a hat-trick against theRangers in the first Glasgow Derby of the season.
He was ably supported by new signing Scotty Sinclair who bettered Jimmy McGrory no less by scoring in all six of Celtic’s opening league games (McGrory could ‘only’ do so in five). He finished the league top scorer on 21 goals.
The aforementioned Tom Rogic also reserved some of his best performances in green and white for this season and of course will never be forgotten for that cup final goal.
Finally, a young Kieran Tierney really started to make his mark under Rodgers and show what he was capable off. Injury curtailed parts of his season but when available we all began to see just how big a player he was going to be.
Celtic are now skippered by Callum McGregor who of course is one of the few players (James Forrest being the other of note) who featured prominently under Rodgers. He’s shown in recent games alone how vital he is for Ange Postecoglou and is undoubtedly the leader of this side.
Kyogo Furuhashi is the talisman of the side and currently finds himself in a rich vein of form with 15 goals in 19 Scottish Premiership games so far. On his day he’s an unstoppable striker.
Supporting Kyogo is the mercurial Jota who is one of the most skilful players we’ve seen at Celtic Park in some time. To secure such an exciting talent him for around £6M was an unbelievable piece of business.
Another player who signed for a similar fee is Cameron Carter-Vickers and it could be argued that the dominant stopper is now the most important name on the team sheet. He looks to be cruising his way to player of the year at this moment in time, so effective are his performances.
And finally Japanese star Reo Hatate – who it’s easy to forget is just over a year into his Celtic career. The young midfielder continues to get better and better and along with McGregor is an ever present in Postecoglou’s midfield.
Style of Play
In terms of how each team sets up then it may just come down to personal preference in terms of what’s most attractive to you. Rodgers would generally shape up in a 4-2-3-1 with full backs (particularly Tierney) encouraged to get forward. Brown and one other (McGregor or N’tcham) would take up the 2 midfield positions and either Dembele or Griffiths would take up the No.9 spot.
Ange Postecoglou rarely changes from his favoured 4-3-3 formation, though we’ve seen slight tweaks to the system in Europe. McGregor is vital in the No.6 role with Hatate and usually Matt O’Riley further ahead. Cameron Carter-Vickers almost always starts at centre half, and the same could be said for Kyogo at centre-forward.
The positions that change most under Ange are the wingers with any two from Jota, Maeda, Forrest, Abada and Haksabanovic selected for any given game.
Under Postecoglou there’s an emphasis on relentless attacking football (perhaps best summed up by the now famous “We Never Stop” mantra) whereas Rodgers, whilst still an advocate of attacking football would adopt a more patient possession based style.
So Who Wins on Matchday?
Speaking on this week’s Celtic Exchange myself, Paddy and Mif debated who would win on the day in a hypothetical match up between the two sides. Based on Ange’s unique style and the players available to him Paddy thinks the class of 2022/23 would edge it.
“I think it’d be a close game but for me Ange’s team is very exciting to watch. In saying that my favourite game in my Celtic lifetime was 3-2 at Ibrox (Scottish Premiership, 11 March 2018). Who brings a striker (Odsonne Edouard) on with 10 men! Incredible!”
Mif also gives Ange side the nod. “With Ange’s team you know what’s coming but stopping it’s the problem. They’re a fluid team and just a joy to watch.”
It’s a hard one to call either way. Two very impressive, and very successful Celtic sides. Maybe we should just be thankful that both have that same thing going on when it comes to domestic dominance here in Scottish Football.
Listen to the debate in full in the latest episode of The Celtic Exchange Weekly. Available on all major podcast players, over on The Celtic Exchange website or on the player below.