Celtic manager Neil Lennon went on the defensive last night, and stated that Callum McGregor’s position had nothing to do with the result.
Celtic were downed 4-3 at Celtic Park by CFR Cluj. It was a roller-coaster of emotions in Glasgow, with Celtic winning the tie on the night on three different occasions before throwing it away.
Everyone knew the team selection was going to be a massive aspect of the game last night. And therefore it was a surprise to see Lenny choose McGregor at left-back over Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo. Celtic badly missed McGregor’s energy in the engine room over the 90 minutes.
But Lennon isn’t interested in hearing about it. Speaking to the Daily Record, Lenny had this to say:
“He (McGregor) did set up our equaliser and I don’t think the left side of the pitch was the problem. I though he had a pretty good game. We’re not making anyone a scapegoat.
“What surprised me was our approach to the game. If you don’t do the basics you will get punished. We’ve let it slip through our own decision making.
“For us to concede the third goal, it’s just really poor, we haven’t stopped the shot and we haven’t followed in on the rebound, it’s crazy defending.”
Lennon missing the point on Callum McGregor’s position
Lennon is right to point out that McGregor set a goal up and generally played very well. But that’s not the reason that fans are angry with his decision to feature him at left-back.
The fact is that the Hoops badly missed his tenacity in the midfield last night. At 2-1 and 3-2 ahead, the Hoops needed someone to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and control possession for them. McGregor would’ve been a big help in doing that last night.
In addition to that, what does this say about Lennon’s faith in Bolingoli. All we’ve heard over the last couple of weeks is how he’s settling into a new country and everyone backs him. But the manager then drops him for our biggest game of the season so far?
We had £10m of transfer incomings sitting on the bench last night. Like it or not, that’s just not good enough. These are the games these guys should be playing in. If they’re not, that tells you its own story.
Lennon made a mess of his team selection last night. It’s his decision-making that has ultimately led to us going out of the Champions League for the second year running before the playoff round. And now he’ll have to accept the criticism and try to make a positive stab of the Europa League.
But it’s time to stop the experiment of McGregor at left-back. Nobody can slot into the midfield and do the job he does. Surely, the Celtic boss found that out last night, regardless of how much he wants to defend his decisions.