3 things Neil Lennon and Celtic have to do to pick up vital win vs Kilmarnock

By Euan Davidson

December 11, 2020

After the highs of victory over Lille, and all the talk of protests, you might’ve forgotten the small matter of another football match on Sunday. Celtic welcome Kilmarnock to Paradise, looking to make up the gap at the top of the Premiership.

Alex Dyer’s side are an interesting tactical proposition, and they have specific threats that the Bhoys will need to deal with. On the other end of the pitch, there are very striking defensive deficiencies which Celtic are well-equipped to exploit.

Here’s our view on what to look for as Celtic face Kilmarnock.

One-time Celtic youngster Chris Burke / (Photo by Rob Casey/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Width, width and more width

In 20-21, 73% of Kilmarnock’s chances have been created on the wings (WhoScored?). That’s staggering, and if Celtic have done their homework, they’ll be looking to block off Greg Kiltie and Chris Burke at every opportunity.

Mixing their passing (we’ll get on to that), Killie’s reliance on wing play has yielded mixed results. Burke is close to reaching his assist numbers from last season already (Transfermarkt). Yet, they haven’t been the most proficient attacking side, only managing 7 goals in the league so far this season (SPFL).

Even with Celtic’s recent defensive frailties, it would be particularly bad if the Bhoys concede at all tomorrow. Killie have drawn a blank in 3 of their last 6 games. If we can cut their wing attacks out, then we should be onto a winner.

(Side note: did you know Chris Burke started his playing days in the Celtic academy? Me neither)

Killie boss Alex Dyer applauds his fans (Photo by Ewan Bootman/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Long balls from central midfield

Against Hamilton, Kilmarnock couldn’t get the best out of their attacking options. While they have the combination of pace and experience on their wings with Nicke Kebamba and Chris Burke, Dyer’s side are often keen to knock it long.

Trying to utilise the effective runs made by Eamon Brophy, Killie like to knock a lofty ball in from central positions. From there, they try to create confusion in the box.

If you watch this Killie move from 0.51 (SPFL/YouTube), you’ll see exactly what I mean. Alan Power quite literally powered it beyond the Hamilton defence and that occasion, they should really have scored. Look for this on Sunday, as it’ll no doubt be a tactic that Alex Dyer’s team will be trying.

It didn’t work for them last time out, but with Duffy and Jullien’s suspect defensive positioning this season, Celtic should look to press Dyer’s men in the middle. With the considerable range of passing in Kilmarnock’s midfield, whoever matches up with them on Sunday could have a busy shift.

 

More of this would be nice from Edouard / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Familiar defensive frailties

If you’ve read any of my articles (here’s hoping that you have), you’ll know I’ve mentioned Celtic’s inability to clear the ball when defending from aerial opportunities.

Honestly? It does my absolute head in. I couldn’t get into your 5-a-side team but I’ve watched enough football to know it’s a problem. So have you. Alex Dyer and Neil Lennon? It’s debatable.

If you can make anything out from this foggy clip (SPFL/YouTube), you’ll be able to spot Kilmarnock’s utter confusion in dealing with a cross. St. Johnstone launched a speculative attack down the left, crossed in, and from the ensuing chaos, went 1-0 up.

Kilmarnock have struggled in general defending from balls into the box. Against Livingston in October (SPFL/YouTube), nobody in the Killie defence knew where they were meant to be. This is an area Celtic need to attack if they’re going to secure 3 points on Sunday.