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.
Rangers 0-2 Celtic: 3 talking points from the Old Firm Derby as Gerrard’s tactics failed miserably
Rangers 0-2 Celtic: 3 talking points from the Old Firm Derby
Celtic completely outclassed Rangers 2-0 at Ibrox in the Scottish Premiership on Sunday as Odsonne Edouard’s opener in the first half and a second from substitute Jonny Hayes in injury-time ensured that the Hoops strengthened their position at the top of the table.
Having secured qualification to the group stages of the Europa League with impressive victories in the playoffs, both the Old Firm rivals went into the game on Sunday brimming with confidence, but it was Celtic who laid down an early title marker in the first derby of the season.
Steven Gerrard opted to leave Europa League playoff hero Alfredo Morelos on the bench, with Jerman Defoe getting the nod as the No.9 in the derby. Additionally, the Gers went in with a very narrow and compact 4-3-3 system, flooding the central areas with more players at the expense of some genuine width.
Neil Lennon, on the other hand, brought in Hatem Abd Elhamed in place of the injured Kristoffer Ajer at right-back, with Celtic fielding a completely new look backline in the derby as compared to the previous campaign.
It wasn’t the most aesthetic game that you would ever see and after an opening half-hour where chances were few and far between, Mikey Johnstone outsmarted Conor Goldson to set it up for Odsonne Edouard, who scored his fifth goal against Rangers to put the Hoops 1-0 up.
To say that Rangers were below-par for almost the entirety of the game would not be an understatement, as the Gers failed to muster any sort of a meaningful reply after conceding that goal. Substitutes Sheyi Ojo and Morelos somewhat improved them in the second half but it was never going to be enough to break Celtic down.
Jonny Hayes took his chance really well in the third minute of injury time before the game ended, with Jordan Jones receiving a straight card for a cynical hack on Moritz Bauer. Here are 3 key talking points from the Old Firm derby.
1. Edouard made the difference again
Odsonne Edouard’s opener at Ibrox on Sunday was the Frenchman’s fifth goal against the Gers and the second time that he scored the winner on enemy territory.
The Frenchman wasn’t always in the game but he contributed a lot with his clever touches and smart hold-up play, gratefully accepting the only clear-cut chance the fell to him in the game.
Edouard’s winner at Ibrox was reminiscent of the big-game specialism that Moussa Dembele used to showcase during his illustrious spell at Celtic and his latest goal would definitely have raised his stocks amongst the fans.
2. Steven Gerrard’s tactical blunder and lack of energy from Rangers
Rangers’ approach to the game resembled a funnel, as Gerrard compromised some genuine width to flood the central areas of the pitch with a view to blocking the passing lanes and frustrating Celtic.
One would have expected Gerrard to field some out-and-out pacey wingers to capitalise on Celtic’s rather unsettled backline but neither Scott Arfield nor Joe Aribo did enough to put the defenders under any real pressure.
Defoe was largely anonymous due to a lack of supply and while substitutes Ojo and Morelos breathed life into the game, Rangers apparently never had the energy to press Celtic off the ball and get themselves back into the game.
James Tavernier and Glen Kamara, who are usually very influential in their respective roles, looked completely off the pace, ineffective and lethargic, whilst centre-back Goldson came up with one of his worst ever performances for the Gers.
It was a combination of tired legs after a hard-fought playoff victory in the Europa League playoffs and some poor reading of the game by Gerrard that led to Rangers’ downfall on Sunday.
3. Celtic’s backline rose to the occasion very well
The back four consisting of Elhamed, Christopher Jullien, Nir Bitton and Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo exceeded all expectations and while Rangers played it into their hands to some extent with some poor tactical nous and below-par attacking play, the Celtic defenders deserve all the credit for a well-earned clean sheet.
Apart from Bitton, the other three defenders at the back had their first taste of the derby atmosphere this Sunday and Neil Lennon would have been happy to see them rise to the occasion and deliver the goods when it mattered the most.
[Image] Predicted 4-3-3 Celtic FC XI to face AIK in the Europe League playoffs – can the Hoops secure the win?
Predicted 4-3-3 Celtic FC XI to face AIK in the Europe League playoffs
Celtic FC romped home to a comfortable 3-1 victory over Hearts at home in the Scottish Premiership on Sunday as Callum McGregor’s strike in the second half sandwiched by own goals from Christophe Berra and Craig Halkett ensured that the Hoops preserved their perfect start to the campaign.
Celtic’s Champions League aspirations came to an end with a 5-4 aggregate defeat against Romanian giants Cluj in the third qualifying round but they have a chance to make it to the group stages of the Europa League after beating Swedish outfit AIK 2-0 away from home last week.
Neil Lennon’s side will be the clear favourites to make it through to the group stages, as they carry a two-goal lead to Sweden on Thursday night.
Neil Lennon is expected to make a few changes to the eleven that played against Hearts on Sunday, with the Old Firm derby against Rangers in the waiting too.
Celtic travel to Sweden with a few injury concerns, as Hatem Abd Elhamed, Scott Bain and Tom Rogic are expected to miss the trip. However, the manager is likely to have most of the first-team players at his disposal for selection.
Predicted Celtic XI
Fraser Forster (GK)
The towering shot-stopper was catapulted into the starting eleven against Hearts upon his return to Parkhead and he is expected to start ahead of Craig Gordon between the sticks.
Kristoffer Ajer (RB)
The Norwegian has been a real revelation at right-back in recent games and he is likely to continue in that role on Thursday.
Christopher Jullien (CB)
The Frenchman has proven himself to be worthy of every penny for the Hoops so far this season and there is no reason why he should be left out of the away leg despite the Old Firm derby around the corner.
Jozo Simunovic (CB)
Nir Bitton started at the back on Sunday against Hearts but the Croatian is expected to get the nod after a calm and composed display in the 2-0 first-leg victory.
Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo (LB)
The new signing excelled with his pace, energy and link-up play down the flanks in the first leg and he is expected to be handed another start on Thursday.
Scott Brown (CM)
The veteran is usually the one who controls the game for Celtic in the middle of the park and his experience might prove to be a deciding factor in the all-important clash.
James Forrest (RAM)
One of Celtic’s most influential players over the past few years, the Scottish international is the club’s indispensable weapon down the flanks and he will be in high spirits after scoring in the 2-0 victory in the first leg.
Callum McGregor (LAM)
The homegrown star was one of the standout performers against the Swedish opposition last week and he is expected to be one of the first names on the teamsheet this time around as well.
Ryan Christie (RW)
The attacking midfielder tormented the Swedes with his tireless running, energy and creativity in the first leg and he definitely deserves another start.
Mikey Johnstone (LW)
The youngster has produced some dazzling displays early in the campaign and he was virtually unplayable against AIK last week.
Odsonne Edouard (ST)
Vakoun Issouf Bayo started against Hearts but Celtic’s first-choice No.9 should be back in the starting eleven on Thursday.
Griffiths and Bayo to lead the line? Predicted 3-4-1-2 Celtic XI to face Dunfermline Athletic in the Betfred Cup
Celtic FC vs Dunfermline Athletic prediction: Celtic FC line-up
Celtic will host Dunfermline Athletic in the Betfred Cup on Saturday after a shock defeat at the hands of Romanian outfit CFR Cluj saw their Champions League dreams come to an end.
It’s been a difficult couple of days to get through so far but the Hoops have to bounce back with a convincing victory over Dunfermline Athletic to change the mood.
Neil Lennon could ring the changes for the weekend’s Betfred Cup tie.
Goalkeeper Scott Bain picked up a hand injury during the loss against Cluj but finished the game. However, he has now been ruled out for upto two months.
Probable Celtic XI
Manager: Neil Lennon
Craig Gordon (GK)
With Bain out injured, Gordon naturally comes back in goal for Saturday’s game.
Christopher Jullien (RCB)
Jullien, surprisingly, didn’t start in the embarrassing loss to Cluj. However, he is expected to come back into Lennon’s starting XI.
Nir Bitton (CB)
Like Jullien, Bitton was an unused substitute in the last game. With the Europa League play-off game against AIK coming up, Lennon could freshen things up by handing Bitton a start.
Kristoffer Ajer (LCB)
Ajer struggled against Cluj’s attackers on Tuesday but Lennon is expected to stick with the towering Norwegian.
Anthony Ralston (RWB)
With Hatem Abd Elhamed yet to fully get into the grips of the Scottish league, the Celtic boss could hand an opportunity to Anthony Ralston on the right.
Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo (LWB)
Bolingoli has looked unconvincing at the back following his summer move from Austria Vienna. But he could be handed a chance to impress at left wing-back against Dunfermline.
Scott Brown (CM)
Celtic’s leader on and off the pitch, Brown continues to play every game for the club under Lennon, and should start.
Olivier Ntcham (CM)
Though the partnership Ntcham and Brown didn’t work out against Cluj, Lennon could go with the same pair on Saturday.
Ryan Christie (CAM)
Christie will add creativity and a punch of guile to the team. He will be raring to get on the score-sheet again.
Leigh Griffiths (LS)
With the Europa League game against AIK on the horizon, Lennon could freshen up his attack by bringing in Griffiths in place of Edouard.
Vakoun Issouf Bayo (RS)
Vakoun Issouf Bayo has struggled with fitness since joining the club in January. However, Lennon should give the pacey Ivorian a proper outing at home in the Betfred Cup game.
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