Yesterday afternoon was looking like being yet another unwelcome surprise, but as it turned out, Celtic instead surprisingly found their right shape.
For long spells in the first half, the Hoops couldn’t break Motherwell down. With a back four that wasn’t necessary and a strikeforce that didn’t actually have a striker in it, the Steelmen set their stall out comfortably at Parkhead.
Even the goal we scored before half-time at Celtic Park yesterday was just a case of us catching them cold on the counter. Callum McGregor’s fine run created some space, with James Forrest making the most of it to fade a fine finish home.
But the performance was poor up until then. Neil Lennon, already surely feeling the heat after Wednesday’s Champions League exit to Ferencvaros, switched things up. On came Patryk Klimala, off went the increasingly disappointing Mohamed Elyounoussi.
It was a simple case of pushing Taylor up as a left wing-back to make it a back three, whilst Ryan Christie dropped down into his more familiar number 10 role. Klimala, of course, took his spot upfront.
It immediately made a difference. Celtic, now effectively operating in a 3-5-1-1, were much more fluid. Klimala’s movement was that of a striker, and he had the hold-up play to match.
All of a sudden, Celtic had an outlet and were able to push the likes of Olivier Ntcham, Ryan Christie, Callum McGregor, and James Forrest into runs beyond a Steelmen defence that was being run ragged by Klimala’s movement.
Chances started to drop, but it would take another change from Lennon before things really started to open up.
3-5-2 does the damage again
Albian Ajeti came on for Ntcham and Celtic went to a front two. It was back to the glorious 3-5-2 from last season, and unsurprisingly, Motherwell couldn’t cope.
Ajeti rattled home from a fine Kristoffer Ajer through ball. James Forrest, meanwhile, spurned several efforts as space started to open up due to Motherwell’s defence being dragged around.
Klimala went on to have two glorious opportunities that he couldn’t finish, whilst Ajeti’s effort from Jeremie Frimpong’s cut-back needed a last-ditch block to keep it out. It genuinely could’ve been 6-0 before time-up.
In the end, Celtic got the third goal they deserved through Christopher Jullien. After striding way up the pitch on another counter attack, the big Frenchman buried with aplomb.
It’s no surprise, however, that Celtic’s best moments in the game came in the final 20 minutes or so when Lennon switched things to the more natural 3-5-2.
The manager will still maintain that his strikers need to get up to speed. However, Odsonne Edouard should be fit and firing come the return from international duty.
He and Klimala can surely do 45 minutes together before Ajeti comes on or vice versa.
As things stand, we can’t afford to be too experimental. Playing without a centre-forward or even just one has proven to be ineffective in recent weeks.
Lennon found the key to success yesterday when Celtic went 3-5-2. It’s now down to him to stick with it.