The blame game culture after a humiliating defeat is part and parcel of fitba here. The finger is pointed by everyone, from the media to the fans, to find that perfect excuse for the doing that was dished out.
Normally, there’s one individual who is singled out for criticism, and we at TJDS are getting right on that bandwagon.
Collectively, the team were a disgrace last night, yet again, when it came to proving themselves against one of the big dogs in European football, and while the defence were a shambles in particular, I found myself questioning Craig Gordon once more this season after such a heavy defeat.
In the last ten years, Celtic have been extremely lucky to boast two top class big game goalkeepers in Artur Boruc and Fraser Forster, who revelled in matches where the odds were against them.
The big Pole won Celtic points on his own in the Champions League on numerous occasions, most notably Man Utd at home in 2006, whereas Forster would go onto be known as ‘The Great Wall’ by Catalans after Celtic’s historic victory over Barcelona in 2012.
These players rose to the big occasion time and time again, and displayed controlled aggression and assurance in their own ability at what is undeniably the highest level in club football, and it’s worth noting that these guys had a defence in front of them that are possibly nowhere near as talented as the current one.
Stephen McManus and Gary Caldwell were much maligned, and Efe Ambrose and Kelvin Wilson could hardly walk into any team they wanted, but both partnerships did benefit from a rock solid goalie behind them and could be relied upon to bail them out, which was more often than not.
With Craig Gordon, I personally do not feel that he’s a formidable presence in goal, and while I respect what he’s done for us, I believe that this should be his final season as first choice goalkeeper for Celtic. In fact, in a point I will get to later, I think we should go out and buy a keeper in January, to get him bedded in for next season.
Last season he said he was ‘mentally drained’ after being the subject of a transfer bid by Chelsea and that’s when I immediately went ‘Right, mon you’ and automatically found myself criticising him more frequently, but that’s the way I work, and if you hit out with daft patter like that, expect to get taken off my Christmas card list. Potentially earning up to fifty grand a week and living in London, sounds hellish. I’m away to ask for some time off. I’m drained at the prospect of that.
However, getting away from my petty annoyances with Gordon, I’ve never felt he offers the assurance and confidence in between the sticks like Boruc and Forster did in the past. The penalty box was their arena, their stage if you will, and you knew they belonged there at that level. Top class performers and very much saw the Champions League matches as a gig, showboating and backing it up with the class that they were good enough to do so.
Compare them to Craig Gordon, with four international defenders in front of him, and he still looks nervous and apprehensive whenever he touches the ball, which would perhaps explain his distribution, which is increasingly alarming with each game. The way he floats every pass, with no conviction, doesn’t just draw criticism from me, because half of the TJDS timeline are up in arms at this peculiar habit too!
There’s an argument to be had that the system in which the manager deploys in Europe offers very little protection to the defence and the goalkeeper, especially with the fact that the team are far too nice and nowhere near aggressive enough, for the second year in a row, in these games but Gordon set the tone for the defeat last night by going down in installments for Neymar’s opener and after that the floodgates opened. The Brazilian’s touch to steady himself for the shot was absolutely brilliant but the goal was certainly preventable, and Gordon’s half-hearted attempt at keeping it out gave the FRENCH CRACKS all the encouragement they needed to hammer them in from every angle during the game. And how they did.
I have no doubt that on Sunday, Craig Gordon will make a top drawer save, and the goals from last night will all be forgotten about, and the vicious cycle will keep going on into the Europa League games next year(Don’t forget he had a nightmare in that competition against Inter as well in 2015) sandwiched between routine SPFL clean sheets aplenty.
Therein lies the problem, a goalkeeper who performs in the bread and butter matches, but is a serious concern when driving in anything outwith second gear.
Five CL games played. Seventeen goals conceded. It’s far from good enough, and a new goalkeeper, along with another defender, is a priority. Never mind next season, we should be giving the Europa League a serious go when we get there, regardless of who we draw.
Will the manager see this problem and focus on strengthening this position ? You’d think so, but after neglecting to improve the defence already, I’m not confident that he will.