You’ve got to hand it to Celtic and their stubborn refusal to change their annual tactic of reacting too late to a situation when the damage has been done already.
For two years in a row now, we’ve failed to qualify for the stage of the Champions League that matters. What follows is a period of unrest, underwhelming domestic displays, a loan signing to ‘show we mean business now’, and then a win against Rangers that will sweep it all under the carpet until the next summer.
‘Prove that’s actually a thing’, I hear you sneer. Well I will, smart guy.
In 2018, Celtic were dumped out of the Champions League by AEK Athens in pitiful fashion, after a 1-0 defeat at Tynecastle. Following the defeat in Greece, a Dedryck Boyata goal got us out of jail against Hamilton, in what was a dismal display. A car park protest was imminent until a 1-0 win over Rangers papered over the cracks, and all was well.
Fast forward to 2019. After a 5-2 win over Motherwell, with Scott Bain looking particularly suspect along with a shaky defence in general, Celtic proceed to lose the second leg 4-3 at home, despite looking comfortable for the majority of the game. Much like last night, there’s a stormy aftermath, mostly online though where nothing is ever resolved, but nonetheless, people were angry. The uneasy atmosphere lingered, as wins over Dunfermline and Hearts were laborious to put it mildly, until yet again, we reacted to the European failure by recruiting players on loan from Southampton, in Elyounoussi and Forster, who would have made all the difference against the Romanians. Nevertheless, a win at Ibrox shortly after that would prove to be our version of the Men In Black’s Neuralzyer, and domestic superiority was, yet again, ‘the real quiz’.
2020. A global pandemic shuts down our season in March. We are declared champions in May. Do we efficiently utilise the time at our disposal ? Do we target players to replace those who had been under-performing or becoming too comfortable at the club ?
Nah, don’t be daft. Not Celtic! Last night we repeated the same cycle of stupid decision making that has hampered us since the AEK game, most notably not starting a striker and entrusting Ryan Christie as our main outlet for the most important game of the season, with two actual centre forwards on the bench.
So once again, we have went into important games at the start of a new season with the same problems. A nervous defence, a stale midfield, and more worryingly, a team who are devoid of ideas if Odsonne Edouard is not firing on all cylinders up top, or unavailable.
Something seriously wrong here.— Kitson (@Kitson67) August 27, 2020
3 games. 66 shots. 3 goals. pic.twitter.com/rbVkvNgCCh
The above stat is concerning.
In the last few years, it has been increasingly obvious that if you play against Celtic with a compact gameplan intent on frustrating us, we’ll find it hard to break down, and this season so far has shown that all too clearly.
When we don’t get our own way of playing the fluid way we like to, and have to resort to a Plan B, who is going to unlock a stubborn defence ? Callum McGregor who is now doing the work of two midfielders next to him, nullifying his attacking threat ? Olivier Ntcham, whose selection under Lennon seems forced ? Scott Brown ? Well who else will scream in someones face when we score!?! Undroppable.
Ryan Christie is turning into this season’s version of Kris Commons under Lennon in 13/14, with the ‘blooter it from anywhere’ gimmick, which has paid off for him with two goals at least, but we’ve drew at Rugby Park and lost last night in the games when that’s been a successful ploy.
The alarming thing I take away from this however, and the theme of this article is toxic repetitive traits, is Neil Lennon’s excuses to mask from his own failures.
Neil Lennon on @CelticFC players who want to leave the club. "I am not going to go into it but I am putting it out there because it has been bugging me for a long long time."— Ronnie Esplin (@RonnieEsplin) August 26, 2020
This just reeks of throwing players under the bus, after a shocker of a result. He did the same in 2013 when he rushed Efe Ambrose back from the ACON against Juventus. Ambrose would go onto make a colossal error, and Lennon never took the responsibility for the team selection, instead hounding Ambrose to the point he was never really the same player for us after a fairly solid start of his Celtic career.
When things aren’t going well for a Neil Lennon team, it’s blatantly obvious, and there is something deeply rotten going on at the club since that Kilmarnock game at Rugby Park.
The problem at the heart of Celtic for many years has been the tyrant with the obsession for a heated driveaway, but he’s given the manager money for players this season, and it hasn’t been spent wisely thus far, although I will say it’s far too early to judge Ajeti and Barkas, despite the big goalkeeper not exactly setting the heather alight in his few performances already for us.
A left back and another winger has to now be the priority, although to fund that, I have accepted we’re going to probably sell a high profile player, which wouldn’t have been an option if we had fully sorted our squad going into that Ferencvaros game, but Neil Lennon knows best of course.
Again, there’s an angry feeling among the fans after this latest European nightmare, and many are demanding action already, yet you can put your mortgage on all of this being put on the ‘I’ll get to it later’ pile if we rack up a few wins in the Premiership and qualify for the Europa League group stage.
The ranting on Twitter and Facebook can’t really force change. It’s very much ‘kite in a hurricane’ stuff, and although it seems like you have a platform and a voice with these apps, you’ve never been more irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Myself included, before anyone has a go and encourages a pile on, or for my address to be posted up on Kerrydale Street.
Look at me for example. I’m writing this, dismayed at the small time antics of Celtic, yet I’ve just purchased that third kit! It’s like complaining about Tony Soprano’s heartless and monstrous antics on that show, and then going ‘awk but he’s a right good da’.
I’m some character, eh!
So here’s what I predict is going to happen, seeing as we can’t change anything from behind a keyboard and have virtually no power into what happens at that club:
Chris Sutton and John Hartson will continue to blame players, and ease the pressure on Neil Lennon going into the game at the weekend.
A senior player will come out ahead of the Motherwell game saying we’re focused on the ten now, and getting into the Europa League.
We may get lucky and see Hamilton take points off Rangers.
Motherwell will be dismantled, with Lennon reacting to last night’s horror show by playing actual strikers up front, and of course, the players will be fired up against a team who cannot buy a win at the moment.
We’ll use the international break to our advantage, and TOO MUCH NEWS our way out of this jam, and with a busy domestic and european schedule to focus on in September, ensuring everyone fully gets behind Lennon and the team. Ferencvaros will be distant news.
And yet again, the cycle will go on. Book it.