What did we learn from Saturday’s defeat at Ibrox? Something and nothing.
We already knew our squad was smaller than it’s been in a long time, but it doesn’t lack quality. So what went wrong at Ibrox other than the result?
A case for the defence
Now you won’t hear me making excuses for the individual errors. There are one or two persistent offenders in our defence.
That said, when your midfield is malfunctioning, your defence has to deal with the onset issues. And if your midfield is still not responding, who do you feed the ball out to?
A lot of Celtic’s defensive errors came from poor passing. Simple passes at that and by all of the back four.
The defence were under constant pressure. The midfield did very little to ease that.
The home side pressed, kept a high line and closed down quickly. We’ve seen this before when Celtic have not been allowed time on the ball in Europe and even in sone domestic fixtures such aa Hearts, Hibs and Kilmarnock.
Brendan Rodgers doesn’t appear to have found an answer to this. He certainly doesn’t appear to have made any progress either.
Brendan setup his midfield with possibly the strongest selection with one key omission. His best midfielder.
Scott Brown has had his critics over the years. He’s also had them this season.
His absence from the team suited the way the team were playing at the time. When he was reintroduced, the fans were displeased with his square ball antics.
Broony still has a place in the team, but not every game. He had poor game on Saturday, but so did Olivier Ntcham.
Ryan Christie did the best he could, but the one player missing from the middle of the park was Callum McGregor. Being stuck at left back was bizarre.
Not because he hasn’t played there before – he has. It was baffling because he is our best midfielder right now and he was repositioned.
Yes, someone needed to play left back, but did it have to be CalMac? No, I don’t think so, Brendan, and that’s on you.
Celtic’s usual outlets are in the wide areas. Scott Sinclair and James Forrest were largely ineffective.
Forrest has been in good form since last season and been even better this season. Sinclair has enjoyed a hat trick recently but his performances have never matched his first season at the club.
Nothing went down the channels. Once more, our players were closed down quickly.
Mikey Johnston was given the strikers role. A huge risk and a big ask in an important game.
I was buzzing about his goals recently, but would I have given him the lone strikers role at Ibrox? Not a chance.
If Mikey does all the right things, he can have a bright future at Celtic. Playing him up front was foolish of Brendan and put a tremendous amount of pressure on the player.
Bad day, bad choices and questions are being asked
There’s no hiding the fact that what Brendan Rodgers did at Ibrox was a managerial faux pas. Kieran Tierney was ruled out giving many the impression that the role would be filled by another suitable candidate.
In the previous four games, Emilio Izaguirre had played left back. It was the reason he was brought back in the summer
He was hooked during the games at Easter Road and Pittodrie and replaced by Jonny Hayes on each of those occasions. That led many to think that either could be a contender for the Ibrox game.
It turned out neither played. Instead he put our best midfielder in there throwing the shape of our midfield into disarray.
We knew we were losing Tom Rogic for international duty. We knew Kieran Tierney was probably going to be missing too.
Odsonne Edouard, though out injured briefly, had returned as a sub against Aberdeen. With all of these known factors, why did Brendan make such bizarre choices for such a big game?
Tierney must have had some level of fitness to have him on the bench. Certainly enough to displace the only other natural left back, Izaguirre.
To play McGregor in front of the three players to have filled that role is beyond comprehension. Or is it, as many of us believe, yet another message being sent to the board of directors with the transfer window here that money must be spent?
It’s a dangerous game to play. Decisions like that put you in close proximity to career suicide if it backfires.
And let’s face it, the only way this has any meaning is if you get your wish. Carte blanche in January.
Is that certified? No.
Was your team selection a wild gamble? Yes.
Even with Odsonne Edouard left on the bench, after coming off it against Aberdeen and scoring a goal, you have to wonder. Why didn’t he play from the start?
To rest him for future games? It’s the last game before the winter break and there are no games for three weeks!
Don’t tell me it would’ve been risky. This risky set up against a team on your heels was foolish.
If this wasn’t a message to the board then it is an alarming move for the Celtic manager. You’ve either misjudged your opponent or you’re past caring about your job.
I don’t know what the preferred choice would be. Brendan must shoulder the blame for this.
Can you imagine if Ronny Deila had made the same choices? He got the bullet just for losing on penalties to the same team.
Steven Gerrard will be jubilant at the result. As will the fans of the Ibrox club.
They are now level pegging with Celtic, albeit having played one more game. Some have dimissed this as being a title race and yet it is one.
Can you really dismiss the fact that the other teams in the league have made it so? Credit where it is due and to say otherwise is nothing short of sticking your head in the sand.
And perhaps that is where Brendan is going with this or trying to do. Show that the gap has narrowed.
I can’t take anything away from Rangers. They worked their socks off for the entire match.
Even if Celtic had scored an equaliser it would’ve been undeserved daylight robbery. The home side’s fully deserved their win on Saturday.
The question for Celtic is this. Was Brendan’s deliberate meddling too obvious that it puts his job in jeopardy or will the board accept the team needs strengthening now?
We’ll find out in January. That’s tomorrow.
Hail! Hail! and a Happy New Year!