John Kennedy has every right to look back on yesterday’s Celtic 6-0 Livingston scoreline and be satisfied with himself.
Not just because of the result itself, which was in isolation extremely impressive, but because of the big changes he made.
We can wax lyrical about Mohamed Elyounoussi and James Forrest all we want. Yes they were mightily impressive. Moi’s brace was sublime to witness whilst Jimmy stepped up his injury recovery with another goal – albeit he limped off with a hamstring complaint in the second half.
But you have to tip your hat off to Kennedy for the essential change he needed, and it’s been something we’ve been crying out for ever since Forrest’s iniital ankle injury. Finally, Celtic played with two natural wingers in their most suited positions. And boy did it tell.
Celtic consistently stretched Livingston and created chance after chance. If it wasn’t Forrest getting to the by-line or pulling Livi defenders out of position, it was Moi. For the first time in a long time, the Hoops had some natural width and used it to make the pitch bigger.
No, I’m not saying Kennedy is the best thing since sliced bread. I’m not saying that he should be the next Celtic manager. And I’m certainly not saying it forgives some of the real blunders he’s had since becoming interim boss.
Natural width = a more complete Celtic
But finally he removed Christie from the right-wing position. Finally he put Elyounoussi on the left flank instead of up alongside Odsonne Edouard. With both of those natural wingers in place, Celtic are a totally different animal.
When you look at the goals Celtic scored yesterday, you can see the impact just having wingers on the pitch actually made. Forrest/Elyounoussi naturally stayed wide, with one ensuring that he didn’t get too narrow when the other decided to come inside. That would’ve suited Livingston had that been the case as they could’ve shut down the space easier.
By having Forrest and Moi interchanging their movements, Livingston were always left guessing. And whenever one did stay wide whilst the other came narrow, it helped stretch the Livi defence that little bit extra to open them up.
It’s no coincidence Celtic rattled home six goals yesterday with a right and left-winger in place. It shows exactly why we should’ve gone into the market in January and bagged a proper replacement for Forrest. His injury has had a more negative effect on the team than it should’ve done.
Hopefully, that’s a lesson that’s learned for the summer. Celtic need to ensure they have two options down either flank. With Elyounoussi scheduled to head back to Southampton, that makes the job all the trickier.
But between now and the end of the season, assuming Forrest’s injury isn’t too concerning, we now have the ability to play with natural wingers.
As has been proven, that can make all the difference to this Celtic side.