Celtic opinion: How Neil Lennon can impose his philosophy and make the Hoops unbeatable
After winning a domestic treble in the recently-concluded season, it is hard to think of how Neil Lennon can still improve Celtic and impose his philosophy to make them unbeatable in the future.
There was a managerial change in February, with Brendan Rodgers departing the club and Lennon taking charge of a squad already set to win trophies. However, this summer provides the latter with an opportunity to do things his way.
Having been at the helm before at Celtic, Lennon must have an idea of how to build a team that is competitive in almost every game of the season.
While domestic trophies may continue to come, partly due to the lack of competition in the country, the main challenge lying ahead is the Champions League.
Talking about last summer, Celtic crashed out of Europe’s elite competition in the third qualifying round, raising a lot of questions about their credibility to win umpteen trophies in Scotland.
They eventually dropped down to the Europa League and were knocked out by Valencia in the round-of-32 stage without even scoring a goal against the La Liga side in 180 minutes of football.
Ideally, if Neil Lennon is to make himself a hero at Celtic and in the eyes of the majority around Europe, he needs to impose his philosophy on the team and try to make them super-competitive in the upcoming Champions League qualifying games.
Lennon’s philosophy and how to improve in UCL
Celtic’s initial target must be to get past the three qualifying rounds in the Champions League and register their name in the group-stage draw. Though they’ve reached the group stage in recent times, not much progress has been made.
As a result, it does make one ponder as to why this happens? Why do Celtic, who are so dominant in Scotland, come into a Champions League game as an underdog?
The answer is the mentality of the players and the lack of flexibility in the tactical thinking of the manager. While playing a normal Scottish league game, one would expect the Hoops to dominate the game by an hour mark and just go through the motions from there on.
While it is good for the players to take the foot off the gas in the domestic arena, it backfires when games are stretched in the Champions League. This is where the team doesn’t possess the flexibility and versatility to manage the game in phases.
Furthermore, managers need to understand that they must either train the players differently on the eve of a midweek European game or instruct them to be more versatile in their approach of the game, from minute one.
It is a cliche in football that big games in the league or Europe are won or lost in the midfield. Celtic do struggle to mark their territory in the midfield when it comes to the Champions League games.
This is where they end up conceding possession to the opposition, inviting pressure on a regular basis. While they have a decent front line, bold players are required in the midfield – ones who can take the ball, hold it and make things happen.
Their back line also needs to be less sloppy in pressure situations, which doesn’t come too often in domestic games.
Lennon has to gradually improve these aspects and look to make shrewd signings. With the experienced Mikael Lustig leaving the club and star left-back Kieran Tierney expected to sign for Arsenal (h/t Guardian), Celtic must be smart in their full-back acquisitions.
Iranian left-back Milad Mohammadi has been linked with them (h/t Scottish Sun), who is a good player and can actually replace Tierney in the team. The challenge is to find a dynamic right-back in the coming days.
In the midfield, the potential deal to sign David Turnbull is on (h/t Scottish Sun) and Celtic have to make sure the Motherwell midfielder joins them ahead of next season.
The 19-year-old is still a raw talent but in Lennon’s 4-2-3-1 formation, he can take up the number 10 role and make things happen for the team. He is not afraid to pick up possession in tight areas as well, something which would help them in Europe.
All in all, it has to be said that Neil Lennon is a good acquisition for this Celtic team on a permanent basis. He just needs to get certain aspects right in order to make them competitive in games all around Europe and Scotland.
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