Impressive midfield, Eddy improvement: 3 things we learned as Celtic beat Hamilton
At half-time today, Celtic fans could’ve been forgiven for getting a bit nervous.
We were all over Hamilton Accies, but on a slick plastic pitch in a West Coast storm, it felt for the world like the Bhoys might struggle. Chances from Edouard and Griffiths had gone begging, and it was getting frustrating.
45 minutes later? Different story. Celtic’s pressure told as Brian Rice’s men fell apart. Young goalie Kyle Gourlay had an excellent game for Hamilton but quality made the difference in the end, and 3-0 was the final score.
Let’s have a look at 3 noticeable factors from today’s St. Stephen’s Day win away in South Lanarkshire.
Celtic boss Neil Lennon has found a midfield shape that works
You could be forgiven for forgetting that Soro was playing today. He was so constantly efficient, without being flashy. He’s only played a handful of games, yet he’s so comfortable in the first-team that it’s become increasingly difficult to remember it without him.
Breaking up opposition play, recycling possession and generally running the midfield, he helped Celtic to develop the midfield diamond that Lennon now prefers.
It wasn’t the tidiest Celtic midfield performance, but on a plastic pitch in pouring rain and howling wind, you’d have to be daft to expect much more.
Turnbull had a great game. Linking well with Edouard and Frimpong, he was able to make things happen. Celtic’s movement was defined by triangles; most of the times a Celtic player was in possession, there were two options for him. Turnbull was making that happen on many occasions today.
If you look at the third goal, the energy and support was a world away from how Celtic looked during the Autumn’s awful run. Turnbull finished off a move but it could’ve been any of 4 players who joined the attack.
McGregor is still adapting to his new attacking freedom, but he and Christie had a decent game. Between the 4 of them, Celtic’s midfielders controlled the game and gave no quarter to Brian Rice’s side.
We’ve had more exciting afternoons supporting Celtic, but this was the kind of efficiency and tactical nous that Neil Lennon has been looking for. The strikers had plenty to work with, while the defence was always well-covered. That’s what you want from a midfield, and Celtic had that today.
Frimpong’s understated excellence
It’ll go under the radar, but Jeremie Frimpong had an outstanding game.
The young Dutchman simply let nothing past him all game, with McCann struggling to make anything happen. So often, moves started with Frimpong in possession.
His head was always up, looking to advance the ball either with the sensible forward pass, or with a short run. His 4 tackles and 87% pass success only tell some of the story (WhoScored?).
It was his overall presence that was better from Frimpong; before he might have inspired nerves from a defensive perspective. Instead, he was commanding, as well as enterprising in an attacking sense. His game has grown, and there were certainly growing pains.
Edouard and Griffiths will win most of the plaudits today, but our right-back had an absolute stormer in stormy conditions on a plastic pitch. That’s a huge boost.
Edouard is getting there
Edouard has had plenty of critics this season, but we spoke earlier about how unrealistic expectations have been. Yes, he hasn’t scored from open play since the opening day (funnily enough, against Hamilton).
But his running, his ability to unsettle a defence and his ice cool demeanour helped Celtic to a win here. Just after half-time, he was agonisingly close to ending that open play nightmare, but he was taken out as he tried to shoot.
The subsequent penalty went exactly as you’d expect.
He’s still lacking confidence in his shooting from open play. Even after mazy runs where he beats 3 or 4 players, he seems to run out of gas and fail to hit the target.
But he’s getting there. Celtic’s second was exactly what fans were wanting; fantastic hold-up play and a lay-off to Griffiths to score.
His 64th minute run to set up Turnbull for a chance was the kind of thing French Eddy can do, scoring aside. He took the ball from the centre circle, beat two men and moved the ball on, for what should’ve been Celtic’s third. Considering the conditions of today’s match, it was a fantastic bit of play, and shows another dimension to his game.
He’s not at his 19-20 vintage, but there’s so much to Edouard’s game. We need to give him time and let him build momentum. All Celtic fans know that he’s worth the wait.