A case for the defence

There was a controversial debate from Saturday’s league win over Ross County at Celtic Park. The key argument of course being Neil McCann’s application of the rules following Craig Gordon’s foul on former Celt, Jackson Irvine.

However, I’d just like to rewind a bit and leave McCann out of that debate completely. Gordon stayed on the park and yes was probably lucky because quite frankly you just don’t know what an official is going to do these days.

My main concern though was the defending that led to the incident. Despite scoring two goals this season already, Dedryck Boyata was at fault for the error which would eventually allow Jackson Irvine in.

Overall, I’ve been impressed with Boyata’s general play but he failed to track back even after he allowed Craig Curran to latch onto the loose ball following a mistake of his own making. And that isn’t the first time Boyata has done that this season either, it’s the second.

I’m all for him pushing on and going up for corners, particularly when it brings in crucial goals. He’ll have to get his finger out though when it comes to defensive matters.

We already have one defender who has made the odd gaff in his Celtic career in Efe Ambrose. Even then, Efe generally tries to make amends on the back of a self made error.

In actual fact Efe had a really good game at the weekend. I’m not saying I’d put him in first time every time but to know there is someone with his level of athleticism on the bench can be valuable when your team are bit leggy.

So by all means Dedryck, keep banging in the goals. When you stuff up at the back though don’t switch off – track back and win the ball back.

With Virgil van Dijk rarely out of the headlines these days about a move south the spotlight is firmly on the Celtic defence. It’s unlikely Celtic would allow van Dijk to move if they qualify for the Champions League regardless of the price but all the same this defence must tighten up for the big games.

On a more positive defensive note, I thought young Kieran Tierney had a fine 60 minutes at left back on Saturday. He stepped in for the suspended Emilio Izaguirre and never really put a foot wrong.

It remains to be seen whether Ronny Deila will procure another left back to challenge Izzy for his role this season. Should a player fail to transpire, I would be happy to see this Celtic youngster get a chance.

You don’t often get the opportunity to shine as a product of Celtic youth but Tierney has done his chances the world of good.  His focus was good throughout the game.

The player who replaced him on the hour mark was Saidy Janko. The former Manchester United youngster will be vying for a place this season as well and has already shown his aptitude when given the chance.

With Mikael Lustig certain to sit out a good few domestic matches Janko will get a chance to step in. He’ll do battle with Darnell Fisher for the right back role but if fit and an import game, Lustig will be the man to play.

Charlie Mulgrew is another option to fill in at centre half or left back. He came under fire for his performance in a preseason friendly but Mulgrew is a useful player to have in the squad and you don’t judge a man who has served us well.

A blend of youth and experience is always beneficial. Guys like Tierney, Janko, Fisher and even Eoghan O’Connell are the new blood at Celtic who should all be pushing for defensive places.

With much emphasis on Europe, the squad well be tested severely this season. Nobody will want to lose their place but injury, suspension and tactical switches will mean opportunities.

If you have a duff game one week it might be useful to remind that player how important concentration is by dropping them for the next. For one it will keep them on their toes, allow others a chance to fight for that place, whilst ensuring there is no complacency or a guaranteed starting spot.

Ronny wants a smaller tighter group of players but he’ll have to give them all a fair chance if he wants to keep them happy. That’s one more challenge for the coaching team to handle.

Hail! Hail!

Stevie Mac

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