3 things Celtic boss Neil Lennon must change ahead of Ross County

By Euan Davidson

December 22, 2020

So, then. Celtic won the Quadruple Treble.

Kristoffer Ajer’s crucial penalty was enough to seal the historic achievement for the Bhoys. We’ll never see the likes of this again in Scottish football. 12 trophies entered since 2016, 12 won.

It’s an incredible achievement. Sure, as the comments sections will dictate, it’ll never compare to Lincoln Red Imps’ consecutive trebles in Gilbratar (Wikipedia). Believe us, we’re jealous we can’t compete for the ‘Rock Cup’ (UEFA).

Still, in the context of Scottish football, in which Celtic compete, you’ll forgive us for feeling triumphant.

That said, there are huge league games coming up. Ross County, who just sacked their manager, visit Celtic Park for the second time in a month. Hamilton away on the astro turf is a potentially tricky one, before we host Dundee United on the 30th.

These are games that Celtic should absolutely win. However, on current form, we’re never quite sure what we’re getting from Celtic. Here are 3 things the Bhoys need to look at ahead of welcoming John Hughes‘ Ross County.


Neil Lennon and Gavin Strachan oversee Celtic training / (Photo by Craig Williamson/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Half-time team talks: what’s going on?

As much as anyone could try to tactically evaluate Sunday’s game, mentality was clearly so important. Celtic had a 2 goal lead after 45 minutes which could’ve been even more comfortable. All it took was a Liam Boyce header to get the Jambos right back into it.

It’s a familiar pattern for Celtic supporters (BBC). For some reason, this Celtic side doesn’t like being in front. Despite the Lille and Kilmarnock wins, there’s still a mental fragility about Neil Lennon’s men. Ross County have already taken advantage of it (Sky Sports).

We have to ask; what’s going on at half-time in these games? It sounds like hindsight, but I was genuinely worried about carrying a 2-goal lead into half-time on Sunday. A lot of people were, and that’s just beyond unusual. Something’s going wrong in the dressing room and it needs sorted out.

Hopefully, the sensation of winning the Scottish Cup will have smiled affixed to Celtic faces all week. Maybe momentum alone will see us comfortable past Ross County. Still, there’s room for an inquest as to why the Bhoys fell apart in that second half. It could’ve ended so, so differently and the half-time break was the start of a collapse.


Battling for the first-team: Messrs Soro and Brown / (Photo by Craig Williamson/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Pick the Celtic XI that beat Kilmarnock

It might sound harsh to suggest dropping Scott Brown again. But where was his leadership in the second half against Hearts?

For me, Lennon has to go back to the team that defeated Kilmarnock, or at the very least, one closely resembling it. Against the Jam Tarts, Lenny went to a 4-2-3-1 shape, which indicates that he doesn’t fully believe in his own favourite tactic.

Yes, it worked in the first half. However, there are still problems at the back. The constant change of shape is doing Jullien and Duffy no good whatsoever. In a 3, they and Ajer looked so much more comfortable. Ahead of them, Ismaila Soro’s refusal to let anyone past him would help to negate any Ross County threat.

Turnbull was played in a different role on Sunday. He tried his best, but it just didn’t suit him. Lenny should go back to the oh-so-festive Christmas Tree that was used against Killie (WhoScored?). Less Gegenpress, more Tannenbaum.


History maker: Celtic youngster Conor Hazard / (Photo by Craig Williamson/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Stick with Hazard… for now.

Ajer wasn’t the only penalty hero on Sunday. 22-year-old academy product Conor Hazard made two massive saves to ensure Celtic would secure the Quadruple Treble.

No matter what Hazard does for the rest of his career, that’ll be remembered.

What’ll be forgotten was his overall shakiness in the second half and extra-time. His decision-making was rash, and while he wasn’t at fault per se, he did contribute to Heart’s second and third with his uncertainty.

Lennon has arguably dropped keepers for less, but he should stick with the Northern Ireland international. Hazard, hitherto the second half on Sunday, had brought a level of calm to the Celtic defence. His big frame and reactions are a big plus, and this was probably his first real test in goal for Celtic.

He hasn’t passed his audition for the permanent No.1 spot quite yet. Penalty heroics are one thing; consistency is another. We’re hoping young Hazard can rectify what he got wrong at the weekend, and take the confidence from what he got right.