As a Celtic fan this season I am starting to feel more and more like Bill Murray! Bare with me here. The star of the classic film ‘Groundhog Day’ had to relive the same day over and over again, with no escape. Time and time again this season Celtic have shown signs of promise yet ultimately they concede sloppy late goals to throw away points. Now it’s not quite the same day over again but it is certainly happening far too often for comfort.
The quality of the Celtic squad pales into comparison with previous era’s yet expectations remain. The squad should aim to win the league and cup double every season. Of course this is not always going to be possible but being 10 points behind Rangers in the league is very disappointing. With two games left against the Old Firm rivals however the gap could easily be a mere 4 points (or possibly 16!). The January transfer window reinvigorated the squad and signings such as Robbie Keane and Morten Rasmussen really encouraging the fans. Despite the transfer activity the results have hardly improved.
The insipid strike force has been replaced and goals have come easier yet the defence has more gaps in it than ever before. Scoring 4 goals away at Aberdeen is an impressive performance and for a side like Celtic should guarantee a comfortable victory. To then concede 4 goals is unacceptable for a team of Celtic’s calibre. Credit must go out to Aberdeen and their tenacity and skill but Celtic need to do better.
In other games since January the highlight reel has been a personal battle between Robbie Keane and the goalkeeper. With the keeper having an inspired performance and Keane looking ever more frustrated at his inability to punish the opposition. This element seems to occur all too often. Opposition goalkeepers seem to store up all there world class saves and luck for matches at Parkhead. Despite the onslaught that they face they manage to clear the all with any part of their body. No doubt Rangers feel the same yet in Kris Boyd, despite his critics, they have a clinical finisher, who gives keepers little chance.
Celtic nearly always dominate possession and oppositions choose to drop off and form two solid banks of four. It is Celtic prerogative to break down this tactic but all too often games descend into this attack v defence scenario. What Celtic have to do to break this cycle is to be innovative. When they get the chance players like Aiden McGeady must counter attack with real purpose, as no player can stop him at full flight. Robbie Keane will be close to match fit by now so he needs to continue scoring and become a bit more clinical. He has already scored some good goals and his increased confidence will result in a hat-trick sooner rather than later.
What is vital for Celtic is that the defence improves. The quality of defenders is not great but desire and organisation are basics that any defence should be able to master. With Mowbray being a successful centre half himself as a player, I would hope for better organisation in defence. Just like his previous club, West Brom, Celtic have however developed a weak under belly, which allows opposition a good chance in any given game. Celtic should be able to keep clean sheets in the SPL against many mediocre attackers, yet they look frail and nervous in almost every single game.
I apologise for this little rant but I feel better now that I have it off my chest. The squad have an uphill task to rein back Rangers in the coming months. They now have the attacking talent to do so, if they can just become a bit more ruthless in putting sides away. If the defence can also improve then Celtic will actually have the necessary platform from which to attack in numbers. I can not wait to see a run of solid victories shutting out the opposition and converting scoring opportunities. At present I have had just about enough of conceding silly goals and poor finishing. Unless Celtic can break this ‘Groundhog Day’ scenario then Rangers will win the league with barely a whimper from Parkhead and Hibernian may even pip Celtic for 2nd spot. Hopefully Tony Mowbray can be the unlikely hero of the show, just like Bill Murray, and lead the side to the success the fans all crave.
Follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/EwanNisbet