Away-day kings, Ange finds consistency; 3 things we learned as Celtic beat Dundee
They say a week is a long time in football and so it’s proved once more as Celtic overran Dundee at Dens Park this afternoon.
A week ago we were left bemoaning 2 points dropped at home to Livingston. Ange Postecoglou was again under some pressure, with the game being over-analysed to death.
Fast forward a week and the Hoops are again in a much better position. A 3-2 win in Hungary that boosted our Europa League qualification prospects saw the Bhoys arrive at Dens Park brimming with confidence once more.
What followed was absolutely beautiful. Braces from Jota and Kyogo Furuhashi respectively blew James McPake’s side away on the day. They did manage to pull two back through headers from Danny Mullen and Lee Ashcroft. But the truth is Celtic simply had too much for them.
Not to mention the fact that Celtic also missed some big chances elsewhere in the match. Cameron Carter-Vickers came close with powerful header whilst Stephen Welsh somehow glanced wide from 6 yards out.
But it was incessant stuff from Scottish football’s in-form team. The gap at the top is back down to 1 point, albeit likely only for a short period with Rangers facing Ross County today.
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And here, we take a look at 3 things we learned as Postecoglou’s side came up trumps once again.
Celtic becoming away-day kings under Ange Postecoglou
Remember the nonsense about Celtic not being able to win an away game earlier on this season?
Our first 3 domestic away games saw us lose at Tynecastle, Ibrox, and the Tony Macaroni Arena respectively. We also lost against Midtjylland, AZ Alkmaar, and Real Betis on the road too. It wasn’t a great record, but there was a massive over-reaction to the situation at the time.
Postecoglou was still finding out about his players and that was clear even at the time. Now, we’re finally seeing the rewards of patience as Celtic begin to blow away their opposition both domestically and in Europe when on the road.
Celtic’s electric front 3 of Liel Abada, Kyogo, and Jota just have far too much for anything Scottish football has to challenge them with. When teams look to come at Celtic on their home turf, they get exploited through any gaps left in the final third.
That was evident in today’s 4-2 win against the Dee. And that’s now followed 4 other victories on the road. Aberdeen, Motherwell, Hibernian, and Ferencvaros respectively have all hosted Celtic and ended up being bossed.
Celtic all of a sudden look more suited to away-days than many would’ve thought possible back in September. They’ve smashed home 13 goals in the fixtures mentioned above, and they’re showing no signs of letting up heading into the crucial festive period.
Ange has found his best Celtic XI
Postecoglou now clearly has an idea of what his preferred Celtic XI is in his head.
Today at Dens was the first time since becoming Celtic boss that the manager has fielded the same XI for 2 consecutive games. Granted, this doesn’t mean today’s XI is what the manager views as his strongest.
In an ideal world, Tom Rogic would be playing instead of Bitton whilst Carl Starfelt would be fit with Welsh on the bench.
But so many of these Celtic players are being selected regularly by the manager. So much so that it’s clear he now knows his strongest team. He has an extremely unique front 3 that can’t be matched by any other side in Scotland. He’ll also consistently go with Turnbull and McGregor in the midfield whilst his back 4 picks itself when everyone is fit.
We also know Joe Hart is Postecoglou’s preferred number 1, even if he comes with the odd mistake.
They say so often in football that it’s wise to make changes after a European game. But there were absolutely zero signs of weariness to Celtic’s play this afternoon. The same men who went out and bossed Ferencvaros were the same ones who embarrassed Dundee today.
Ange knows his best team allright. And that’s a worrying thought for the rest of Scottish football.
Celtic backline continues to shoot itself in the foot
I’ve been a consistent defender of the Celtic back 4 this season. Whether it be Starfelt or Welsh partnering CCV, I’ve consistently stressed they need time.
Not even just that, but they need an acceptance from supporters that this is just how we play. That we’re going to concede goals that may appear sloppy but happen simply because of our gung-ho style.
However, in the last 2 matches, we’ve allowed the opposition to receive a glimmer of hope due to some poor decision-making individually.
Against Ferencvaros, it was Anthony Ralston failing to close down Myrto Uzuni to curl home with 5 minutes remaining. On another night we could’ve thrown that away.
Today, it was the fault of CCV and Hart that allowed Dundee 2 opportunities to come back into the match. For their first goal, the former was caught napping with Welsh having to mark 2 men in the box. It was no surprise that Mullen glanced home. And as for the second? Hart comes out carelessly and misses the ball altogether, allowing a simple tap in for Lee Ashcroft.
The issue here is that the opposition aren’t having to work hard enough for these goals. Whilst we’ll excuse goals that come from systematic issues, we can’t just bow our heads to sloppiness.
Thankfully, we got the job done in the end today due to the electric front 3. But there’s no denying we need to be more ruthless at the back than we have been recently.