The only thing that surprised me on Thursday night at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza was that Celtic managed to score. In fact scoring twice before Milan were even aware what was going on almost made me forget that Celtic had been having a diabolical Europa League campaign.
Tom Rogic and Odsonne Edouard scored two fine goals by European standards. Though as pleasing as it was to see Tom’s wizardry and Eddy’s smiling face again, it took only 10 minutes for Milan to pull one back followed by an equaliser 2 minutes later.
We were back to situation normal. Leaking goals like the rainwater in my kitchen ceiling.
However big Celtic’s problems are, there’s nothing worse than the shape of their defence. Whether it is individual players, a combination of personnel, tactics deployed, the players’ ability to grasp those tactics or a bit of everything, there seems to be no end to Celtic’s frailties.
They are all over the place and it is evident that last season Fraser Forster saved this defence’s blushes on multiple occasions. His presence between the sticks was so valuable he virtually won last season’s League Cup single-handedly.
Right now Celtic seem to have a back up keeper who has dropped below his capable standards and a number one keeper who resembles a number two – and by that I don’t mean pecking order. At this moment in time I’d be prepared to give Conor Hazard a go because quite frankly there is nothing to lose by doing so.
Defensive capitulation is almost guaranteed every time an opponent attacks. Whether it’s by the fault of the defence, midfield or whoever is in goal I can’t quite decide.
I agreed with Barkas being dropped as much as I agreed with his exile ending last weekend. Having seen him in two games since his return, I don’t think he is fit for the job.
It isn’t just about him of course. This “malaise”, as Neil Lennon referred to it as, is affecting the entire team.
I do expect more from a Celtic keeper though. I had a debate with someone the other week just before he’d been “dropped” from the first team.
My opinion was that Barkas always seemed rooted to the spot, had no presence or anticipation and couldn’t be relied upon. He never stood out or made any really significant saves.
This was dismissed by the other person. Their opinion that it was all down to the defence.
To a degree, I think they were right. Only in the sense that the defence is shambolic, but I argued that last season Fraser Forster would have saved more of those goals than Barkas or Bain.
In fact I’ll stick my neck out and say that Craig Gordon would have too. A player the club showed the door to far too quickly.
Barkas may need more time to settle in. Unfortunately, time is not something Celtic have much of right now.
Neil Lennon and the club’s financiers may have a big decision to make in January. Of course that all hinges on whether, by the time the transfer window reopens, Celtic actually still have a chance of winning anything.
If they don’t then there seems little point in procuring more talent half way through a season of woe. That is why today Celtic have to beat St Johnstone.
The League Cup tie last Sunday was an opportunity for these players to show they still had some fight in them, domestically at least. The entire match was diabolical and well below what they are capable of.
The trouble is, if Ross County can beat Celtic on their own turf then anyone can beat Celtic anywhere. So it’s difficult to convince the supporters that Neil Lennon, his players and coaches can turn this around.
Celtic’s Europa League campaign was over about the same stage they qualified last season. In addition to that their defence of a four year long League Cup crown has gone up in flames to the 2015-2016 winners who coincidentally put Celtic out in a controversial semi-final.
Two weeks today, Celtic will face Hearts in last season’s delayed Scottish Cup Final. In that game alone, a quadruple treble hangs in the balance along with this seasons still possible 10IAR.
As fans, we are all fearful this is all going to end in tears. We are not paranoid and we are not harsh – this is reality.
I would love to know what the daily discussions are like at Lennoxtown. If they are discussing these huge mistakes we seem to keep making in every game, then what are they working on to remedy this?
Stevie Woods, a key part of the goalkeeping fraternity at Celtic, must know himself that Barkas isn’t doing things right. He’s worked with goalkeeping personnel for over a decade at the club.
A penny for his thoughts would be illuminating I’m sure. Similarly, what is being said about the defence?
Whoever has that task obviously doesn’t have the answers. If they did this chaos would has ceased weeks ago.
Two of our central defenders are midfielders, two are actual central defenders yet between them can’t unify and stifle an attack. They are all more than capable of defending though as we have seen under a variety of managers.
Is that down tactics and team orders or just inept players? We all thought Raphael Scheidt and Olivier Tebily were a couple of donkeys, but my God they’d give the current Celtic defence a run for their money.
I can’t help but think that things have run their course for this era. Just like it did with the Walter Smith side which Wim Jansen halted in its tracks.
What’s hard to accept is that there’s no lack of talent in the current Celtic team. Though it does seem to lack organisation, conviction and even confidence.
They may tell us that they believe they can win and stay in the fight. We aren’t seeing it on the park though.
It may well be out with anyone’s control at all. Maybe 10IAR will remain a Holy Grail that nobody will ever secure in Scotland.
Can you live with that? I can’t, simply because there didn’t appear to be any reason why Celtic couldn’t have done things better.
A warning sign last year came when Celtic won a League Cup Final that they did not deserve. That was closely followed by another end of year defeat by their city rivals.
On that occasion, the circumstances jolted everyone at the club into life after the winter break whilst their rivals fell apart. This year there is no winter break and there are five league matches to pull themselves together and every time there is a warning sign, there is no reaction.
Defeat is no longer an option. Dropping points is no longer an option.
If things don’t go Celtic’s way then it will be the end of an era for Celtic. Whether it happens now or at the end of the season it will be the end of Neil Lennon too.
The other day, the Green Brigade unveiled another banner outside Celtic Park. This time, they got the message across in a more measured fashion.
Had they done something similar this first time around the other week, they wouldn’t have split the support as they did. This may have prevented the supporter backlash outside Celtic Park a week ago too, but that is another topic which many may disagree with.
What is important here is that it shows you that the Green Brigade are capable of sending a message without causing mayhem. I think this time they have got it spot on and hope they will continue in this fashion.