Piling On The Pressure
Tuesday is really not a good day to be writing an article about Celtic when we play on the previous Saturday and then tomorrow. It always feels as though it falls between two stools-a bit late for a review of Saturday,and a bit early for a preview of tomorrow night! Still,be that as it may…
Saturday certainly threw up a number of talking points,starting with the number of changes from the starting line-up on Wednesday night in Madrid. Is this the mark of a manager who hasn’t a clue yet about his best starting eleven,or as I believe,of a manager who has complete faith in his squad and of its ability to adapt to regular change? Ange realises that he can rely on players dropping in and out of the starting eleven as required,and the players realise that there is a good reason or two for that.
Not least that almost half of the team will be replaced long before the finish. That everyone whether on the field or the bench at the start will be expected to be ready to play their part.
There are a number of reasons for this,and I doubt that it has anything to do with keeping players happy or even on their toes. No-one is guaranteed their starting place and no-one is out in the cold either. Players are better protected from the sort of burn-out or injury caused by being over-played,those who come on from the bench are already match fit from frequent outings previously-and their freshness is the last thing that a tiring opposition wants to see! On top of that,how does an opposition manager plan for a match against our side,how does he organise his own team to nullify our threat or expose any flaws,if he doesn’t have a scooby who his players will actually be matching up against?
I’m quite content with the rotation of the starting line-ups and of the personnel during a match that Ange has now made the norm. And I suspect that the players are too. Long gone are the days when we would be questioning the sanity of a manager for leaving out certain players as we can be reasonably confident that the player in question will be seen at some stage,and that the replacement is well up to scratch anyway.
Once again though,the unwanted star of the show was VAR,or more accurately the way it is being manipulated up here against its original principles. Well,sometimes! For instance,it was used 100% correctly in the case of the martial arts assault on G-Mak,even if the actual decision itself was debatable. The original incident happened about four yards away from ref David Dickinson-no,not the one with the orange face,this one does not have an orange face at all,though I can’t speak for the rest of him. No free kick was given,nor obviously was the player carded.
VAR had a look at a possible red card offence,and rightly so. The decision was that no red card was warranted. That may have been the wrong decision,but there is no option for the ref to award a free kick or to brandish a yellow card under those circumstances. It is either a red card or stick with the original decision,no other options are available. Correct interpretation,even if you disagree with the actual decision.
The other two main VAR points are the length of time it took to check the validity of our second goal. Maybe I should phrase that as picking through every possible angle to see if they can find the most spurious of reasons to chalk it off. There is no need for that at all,nor for it to take so long. The fans in the stadium could have nipped out for a pie and still be back in their seats in time for the eventual decision-one which was “clear and obvious”!
And then we come to THAT penalty decision. In a fairly crowded box,there wasn’t a single opposition player who even tried to claim for handball. And certainly the ref could see no infringement,nor anyone else in the stadium. One person could though-and he wasn’t even in the stadium! When even the likes of Ally McCoist says that we might as well chuck it altogether if such as that is a penalty,you can see that we do indeed have a problem.
AP is not a man much known for irrational post-match outbursts,nor even for criticism of any kind,oblique or not. He made his displeasure plain though after this one. And rightly so. Our so-called quiet words with the SFA about refereeing decisions are either downright lies or figments of the imagination of a deluded lame duck chairman,or they are entirely ineffective. Either way makes no difference. There are two more matches before the enforced break,and Celtic and the other clubs must make it perfectly plain-no,we are NOT the only club with grievances over this!-that the five weeks to come must be used to hammer home that mistakes are possible in real time,but CANNOT be excused after the multiple angle replays available via VAR.
And nor can “clear and obvious” manipulation against ANY member club.
So to tomorrow. I haven’t a clue what the starting line-up will be,but I can state with reasonable confidence that it will be different from Saturday! I’m reasonably confident too that VAR will once again be a hot topic,and even if the match isn’t being shown by Sky I suspect that some of us at least will be watching. Motherwell are a model of inconsistency this season,though they have lost five of their last six. Their only victory in that time was ten days ago at bottom side Dundee United-who sorely tried us on Saturday!
There is no room for complacency,but there has never been a suspicion of such an attitude since Ange’s arrival anyway. Keep up the pace for the next two games as two victories will see us going into that break with a minimum lead of seven points. That doesn’t mean that the league is over of course,but I’d rather have a healthy cushion at the top than be chasing it.
I mentioned to my sister on Sunday that it is very strange to see Steven McLean taking charge of so many higher profile matches since the introduction of VAR. He has his other role at the pinnacle of our version of PGMOL to fill his time,and yet here we are with him either in the middle or in front of a monitor every round of matches. Maybe I’m reading too much into it,but I was delighted for St Johnstone on Sunday anyway. Not least because the most hurting hun in Perth was the one who could probably have done most to affect the result-and he couldn’t!
Couldnae happen to a more deserving bloke,really…
Above article by BMCUWP