Celtic can win Glasgow Derby with tactical tweak, claims Scott McDonald

By Euan Davidson

April 27, 2021

Former Celtic striker Scott McDonald claims that James Forrest is crucial for Sunday’s Glasgow Derby.

Celtic have lacked width against Rangers, especially over recent meetings. In the bleak, uninspired performance at Ibrox two weeks ago [Sky Sports], the Bhoys created plenty of chances but were utterly profligate. It made for bleak viewing, and the full-backs in particular struggled in a confusing system.

There was no real out ball for either Diego Laxalt in the first half, nor Jonjoe Kenny. However, Greg Taylor and the aforementioned Kenny have played far better when John Kennedy has tweaked his formation. In a 4-2-3-1, Celtic were utterly devastating against bogey team Livingston, and attacking from the byline has been key to the Bhoys’ success over the last decade.

Scott McDonald, speaking to the ever-enlightening Celtic Huddle Podcast, explained his point of view ahead of Sunday’s derby.

McDonald said [Celtic Huddle Podcast]:

“I think the best performances Celtic have had have been when they went back to their normal 4-3-3. 4-2-3-1 if you want. That’s when Celtic’s been at their best. Hopefully James Forrest can be fit, because I think [for that system] he is so vital.

“That’s what they’ve missed this year.”

“Neil did well at the back end of last season with a 3-5-2, [so] they began the season like that. It just didn’t work.

“4-3-3 is the most encouraging, especially playing against Rangers when they have done… That’s what I’d be suggesting for the weekend.

“Celtic’s strength is out in those areas but they gave Rangers that area to explore.

“We know that’s their strength with Barisic and Tavernier, so you need to fight the fight similar.

“And I think Celtic with the players they have in attacking areas can hurt Rangers.”

James Forrest celebrates scoring for Celtic / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Scott McDonald is right: Celtic have to go wide to beat Rangers

Much if made of Rangers’ full-backs, but Celtic can and have caused problems against them. If James Forrest is fit, then it seems an absolute no-brainer. In 23 appearances against our fiercest rivals, Forrest has won 17 [Transfermarkt]. So often, he’s had the killer ball, or been so involved in the build-up for big Derby moments.

McDonald is right here; the ball movement has been far better with a wider formation in use. With the diamond, Scott Brown’s range of passing cannot be fully utilised, and the short, meandering ball movement in central midfield invites pressure and counter-attacks. With proper outs to use on either wing, it spreads the opposition defence out wider, so fewer bodies can be used to mark Edouard out of the game.

Even if Karamoko Dembélé was the only available right-winger, it’d make sense to play him rather than stick to a diamond.

Frankly, after a brief spell of usefulness, the outmoded formation has been shown up for the outdated, unfashionable set-up that it is.

Scott McDonald may not always get it right with his footballing hot-takes, but this one is bang on.

READ MORE: Celtic DoF candidate has an incurable case of Battle Fever