After an emphatic 3-0 home win over Hibernian, with a much improved performance to keep everyone happy, there’s still plenty for the Celtic players and Neil Lennon to build from and improve.
Let’s all take a deep and pretty satisfying breath after a potentially difficult match was won quite comfortably. And after many expressed some doubts over the starting line up. The only real doubt in the end was on whether the score line was reflective of the match – should it be more than three? On second half dominance, probably more goals are merited, on actual chances created, it’s probably about right.
The performance was much better, the various formations during the match were generally good and positive. Perhaps a few inevitable questions late in the game as Hibs pressed more and a flurry of substitutes shook things up.
Celtic certainly played well, and this was really good progress towards stepping up the performances and working out the best combinations of players. It may seem odd seeing so many variations in the starting line up, in practice it’s the positive end of the problem of how to use so many great players and developing talents. Let’s welcome that more than criticise the selections.
Towards the end, the rotation and use of the squad continued. A flurry of substitutes emerged with Klimala, Soro and Ntcham all coming on within the last ten minutes as Lennon used the full subs allowance available to give more players some game time.
Celtic and Lennon can undoubtedly learn and improve though. Three particular points stood out.
Our defence still needs work
Three at the back is working fine and allows much more flexibility higher up the pitch. But with Jeremie Frimpong and Greg Taylor pushed forward as wing backs there is still vulnerability at the back which gets exposed too easily at times.
Very likely that’s down to the newness of the three back players. Nir Bitton remains a classy player converted to the position. He does a very good job but as yet has had very few games with Shane Duffy alongside. Duffy himself will be strong and safe, but he too is still building relationships with the two alongside and Vasilis Barkas behind.
Today didn’t see the best of Duffy, with a few errors or lack of judgement at times. He looked like a centre half who hadn’t been playing regularly for a while. He will definitely settle in over the coming weeks.
Kris Ajer did what Kris Ajer does, he has some occasional lapses, he defends excellently most of the time. His moves forward at times will help break through tight defences. We should remember he is still very young for a centre back and learns more from every game. Let’s hope he stays for a while longer.
At the very back, Barkas looked calm, controlled, comfortable and keen to distribute the ball quickly with accuracy. He wasn’t busy today but very switched on when needed. All great attributes for a Celtic keeper.
The learning here is of the importance to continue playing a settled back 3, lots of training drills and exercises and build the understanding and routines between them. There is great potential for a clean sheet run here.