A bridge too far
Yesterday a work in progress suffered a blip.
It happens everyday, and it just happened to be our turn. Its not particularly pleasant, but its not catastrophic either and in many ways such blips are needed to experience and overcome, they can help the group in the long run.
And I firmly believe that result will help in the long run.
Ange still doesn’t know his first choice eleven, and yesterdays latest shuffling around damaged our shape more than the opponent. Im not going to blame Ange for the act, almost everyone wanted a stiffer midfield than we have watched recently, but it didn’t work and the manager must heed that lesson.
In our biggest game of the season to date, we were badly exposed, but its action I expect more than questions.
Our midfield wasnt as strong as it could have been, he went with an attacking lineup rather than bringing in a screening player, probably believing Eddy would retain the ball well just like in Europe midweek. I admit he looked hungry then, and that trick worked, but this was night and day and I get the impression that team is happy to see an Odsonne Eduoard playing whereas now the Tims arent.
Ange has been struggling for consistency in the middle of the park, drafting in Soro earlier in the season but after defeat in Denmark and Tynecastle dropping him and signing EPL experienced McCarthy, who ironically wasn’t available.
This latest result just adds to the headache of who to actually start and where.
I’m not pointing fingers at Soro, we mostly believe players need a run of games in the team to find their stride, so if he is bouncing in and out he shouldn’t shoulder the blame, but if he is the only screening player available then he should be selected. He needn’t be thrown in cold,,safe in the knowledge he will be playing it would make sense to put minutes into his legs during the previous fixtures. If I know that surely the coaching staff do, and a little practicality should be shown.
Ange-ball is attacking by nature, the gaffer demands it, so his natural instinct was to select a more attacking midfield which worked against weak opposition, but hasnt against better sides four times now.
It must register now after this defeat the middle of the park needs some bite and steel, too often they are posting missing.
Tam-Calmac-Turnbull can start against lesser SPL teams and cup games, but is too lightweight for tougher games, and theres plenty of those coming up.
Upon return from the break, Ange needs to try and find a new midfield combo to take us forward, or we wont win this title.
While selection was a big part of the defeat, game tactics probably played a bigger role.
Ryan started on the right, which hurt Abadas game. It was the first time we have witnessed this, which makes me wonder if it is naive to introduce brand new tactics for such an occasion? Well, the proof is in the pudding, it didnt work.
To my untrained eye instructing the fullbacks not to bomb forward until later in the game hurt us, we were clearly two outballs less up the park, and subsequently their fullbacks had less to worry about and looked smart. I understand this was to keep Kent and Aribo quiet, but that came at a huge price. When properly utilized our fullbacks are a potent attacking force, for an attacking manager curtailing that attack slightly disappointed me.
Odsonne isnt an Ange-ball player and doesnt lead the line anywhere near as good as Kyogo, another tactical mistake.
Yup, Ange got his calls wrong on the day.
I’m not going to criticize him, he has earned some breathing room, plus it wasnt a humiliation or anything, and to be honest he probably needed to learn some of those lessons.
Its on he and his coaching team to learn as much as they can from their first derby clash, in victory if possible but especially in defeat.
Every football manager that breathed has gotten their tactics wrong at least once, its far from a hanging offense and in fairness he was up against the best tactician in the land, narrowly failing needn’t be shameful. In Anges defense he has proven himself an inspiring leader plus capable of coaching flowing football,, to possess top notch tactics on top of that at such a young age is asking too much of the man.
We can only ask he learns from such setbacks and defeats, which I fully envision happening.
In further defense of Ange, there was a dearth of Ange type players on the bench to change the game. Of the available substitutes its crystal clear Bain and Urhoghide are emergency only, Ajeti and Bitton are not the Ange-ball types and unwanted, while Soro and Montgomery havent been first team regulars.
We had one certified impact player on the bench, Tom Rogic.
Only one big positive change to make.
Our new striker we really could have done with unavailable, no Forrest, Dembele, Johnson to run at them, no EPL experienced midfielder to bring real steel to the middle of the park.
The bench was pathetic, no fault of the manager.
But despite all the so called negatives, on another day we may not have lost the tie. Its very very unlike Odsonne to completely fluff that open goal attempt, Master Furuhashi might have been awarded a penalty after being fouled in the box, and despite being weak we held them to one set piece goal which was a matched run away from being dealt with.
The truth is they just about beat us at our lowest,,there’s many positive green shoots and the title race hasn’t been impacted much if at all.
We’ve seen their best, they haven’t played ours yet.
Domestically September offers a pretty easy run of fixtures which should see a tweaked Celtic side emerge in time for an early October visit to Pittodrie, a great opportunity to gauge progress and for any new look midfield to show what its made of.
That clash is a little over a month away (2nd October) and not only should the team look different than yesterdays but so should the bench,,all bodies should be in situ and raring to go in a month, plus the undesirables and wantaways should be out the door by then, not to mention some bodies back from injury. If a new midfield is going to emerge, September offers a great platform and some European games for stiff tests.
Yesterday was a reality check for many, but it was only one battle of many.
We can lose the occasional battle, as long as we win the war, and this scrap has barely begun. The Ibrox team have regressed on the park, I thought they were very poor, just simply lucky to meet that iteration of Celtic on the day, and Europe will take a heavy toll on some of their senior players’ legs. Last year they were genuinely hungry, smelt blood and went all in successfully, and I believe they peaked. If presented with victory they will gladly accept, but I question whether the same level of hunger for this year’s title is present within the entire camp.
I also question how many levels that team can lift itself, safe in the knowledge we actually have the players and style to quickly rip teams wide open, even if we never witnessed such yesterday.
In just about beating our jaded and disjointed collection once, they’ve actually managed to increase the pressure on themselves to defend their title, which suits us down to the ground.
Their fans (some with typewriters) have had their hopes raised, they do expect top spot this campaign now, and anything less is therefore a failure.
First blood to them aye, but a long long way to go. We dust ourselves down, get to the drawing board, and a new beast emerges.
Now the real hard work and title tussle well and truly begins.