Noisy Bhoys, confident Karamoko: 3 things we learned as Celtic beat Charlton Athletic

By Euan Davidson

July 10, 2021

Another pre-season friendly, another confident performance from Postecoglou’s Bhoys, with Celtic beating Charlton Athletic.

Meeting League One opposition at Dragon Park for the second time this week, rather the initial jitters we saw against Wednesday, this was a more commanding display.

Celtic named a far more experienced XI [Celtic FC], and it showed in the first 45. With Callum McGregor and Greg Taylor amongst the returning Bhoys contingent, Celtic had far more command of possession in the first half.

Tactically, there was a lot to enjoy. Vasilis Barkas was essentially playing centre-back in the first half. Ralston and Montgomery could be seen swapping flanks, and the pressing game was excellent throughout.

Again: caveats apply. It’s pre-season. These are fitness exercises, more than results to remember. Doesn’t mean we can’t talk about the 3 things we noticed, though, as Celtic beat Charlton Athletic.

Players finding their voice as Celtic navigate Charlton test

The most obvious thing about this game was audible, rather than a visual component.

Whether it’s by design, or through getting to know new rotations on the park, this team are far more vocal on the pitch. In the first half, the chorus was led by Callum McGregor. Dictating play from the middle of the park, McGregor could be heard offering encouragement, co-ordinating his wide players and calling for recycling of possession.

Even the youngsters were finding their voice. Adam Montgomery was consistently calling for the ball, as were Ismaila Soro, Leo Hjelde and Ewan Henderson in particular.

It might seem small-fry, sure. Last season, though, Celtic didn’t sound particularly energised while playing behind closed doors. In fact, it seemed very much like players were going through the motions at times, keeping their head down, and trying to get the game finished.

The atmosphere sounds and looks better. With the intensity of passing cycles, the organisation off the ball and the need to communicate to organise a high press, you’d expect a bit more volume out of this Celtic squad.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Goalkeeper dictating the shape

There was an extremely noticeable difference between the halves, and it emerged from between the sticks.

In the first 45, Barkas was often posted at either the edge of, or just outside of, his 18-yard box. Essentially playing as an extra defender, the Greek goalie looked confident and tidy in possession, barring a dodgy moment towards the end of the half.

Scott Bain – and this isn’t a criticism, just a description – was more reticent in that regard. Bain sat far deeper, and that drew his defence further back. It appears, from these very early stages, that Postecoglou is keen to use his goalkeeper as a catalyst for how high a line he wants to play. When Barkas was on, the defensive line was far higher up our own half.

That was important in terms of how attacks started. There was a perfect example in the 65th minute. After recovering from a Charlton chance, an attack started extremely deep in our own half, with Ewan Henderson hoping to put Edouard through.

However, there were very few options in support, as the whole team seemed to be more camped within our own half in response to pressure.

I can’t emphasise enough how early these impressions are, and again, it’s just a friendly. However, it seems Barkas – at this moment – is more tuned in to how Postecoglou wants to play.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Yes, it’s just Celtic v Charlton in a friendly, but we can be excited about Karamoko Dembele

How fun is it watching Karamoko Dembele play for Celtic? Against Charlton, it was a legitimate shame we didn’t get to watch him in the second half.

An energetic, positive attacking presence, Dembele was excellent in this audition for the season proper. While Celtic are hamstrung by a lack of depth in the position, and James Forrest is still self-isolating, it’s encouraging that our best performer in the first half was playing on the right wing.

We’re not saying he needs to be first-choice ahead of James Forrest when the season starts. But at the very least, Postecoglou ought to be confident of the much-hyped youngster’s abilities. Give him opportunities, and he’s shown nothing quality over his last few appearances.

Somehow, he managed to find space to put us a goal up, and after some instruction from Ange Postecoglou, he looked lively, responding well to the manager’s call for quick passing moves and progressive possession.

Call it premature, but it finally looks as if the hype around Dembele is turning into something tangible. We’ve been given false dawns before, but this might actually be the season Karamoko Dembele breaks through at Celtic.

Stray observations:

  • Jayden Stockley managed 2 blatant elbows (xE: 1.60)
  • Ange Postecoglou has his socks initialled
  • Mikey Johnston is back.
  • Not for nothing, Olivier Ntcham was tidy in possession, slowed down the tempo at key moments and found good passes. A penny for the Frenchman’s career plans…

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