The one major Celtic issue Neil Lennon must fix immediately

By Euan Davidson

February 23, 2021

Imagine if you will, you are a manager facing Celtic and Neil Lennon next.

What do you tell your players in the week leading up to the match? Not to be overawed by the opposition? Do you work on individual battles in key areas? Or, work on a shape to frustrate Edouard +1?

Maybe you’d encourage intense man-marking on David Turnbull. With his passing stats, it’s obvious how influential the Wishaw-born playmaker has become. Or, you set up with a low block, aim to target Celtic in central areas and attack on the break. There are ways.

Or, you could just tell your players: hit the ball into the box, and watch them fall apart. Because, currently, it’s that simple.

Celtic have gone from being imperious to fragile. There’s one key, glaring issue with our team that Neil Lennon is refusing to address. That, or he’s not addressing it effectively. Pick one; both options are bad.

Admit it: this looks like kind of a fun job / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Who is responsible for key Celtic flaw, if not Neil Lennon?

John Kennedy is often criticised as “a defensive coach”, but that isn’t his role. He’s an assistant manager to Neil Lennon. John Robertson wasn’t the “winger coach” when he was number 2 to Martin O’Neill. It doesn’t work that way.

So, is Gavin Strachan at fault? I doubt it; with the data he uses, on that famous laptop (he’s been using an iPad recently, though), he has surely identified this problem, given that he watches it happen with every match.

It can’t be Stevie Woods, because he is, officially, the goalkeeping coach. Sure, he could assist the goalies in become more assertive, and helping organise the defence. But the style of marking (i.e., non-existent) isn’t his call to make.

Hang on.

Is the first-team coaching staff really limited to Neil Lennon and three others? Can that be right? Does a club of Celtic’s size really only have a staff of four coaching the first-team, in 2021?

John Hughes simply watched Celtic’s deficiencies / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

John Hughes and Jim Goodwin have made their plans clear; still worked

Before the latest Ross County debacle, John Hughes pointed out how he thought his team could beat Celtic. He told BBC Radio Scotland (21/02, 19:15):

“We need to go and head the ball in both boxes. We’ve been working on that.

“I think there’s an Achilles heel there, and I really think it’s from set-pieces. In terms of height, they’ve got Ajer and Welsh. I don’t see too much more.

“If we show a real aggression and determination to get our head on it and the delivery is good, I think we might get success.”

Furthermore, Jim Goodwin has said before meeting Celtic [Daily Record]:

“Celtic have got their own fragilities at the minute, they’ve been conceding far too many goals from their own point of view.

“It’s been well documented the amount of goals Celtic have conceded from set plays this year. We believe we’ve got the players to go and exploit those areas.”

Both managers, as if you need reminding, have beaten us with exactly that method. Frustrate in defence, exploit a glaring weakness up-front. Neil Lennon and his (incredibly small) team of coaches absolutely have to work on this.

Last time against Aberdeen, we were nearly punished. At the time, I wrote:

“On more than one occasion, Greg Taylor (5’6″) was marking Ash Taylor (6’3″). No football strategist, analyst or anyone can convince me that’s a good idea.”

All Derek McInnes needs to do is identify this problem, just like his fellow SPFL managers have. If Celtic take even longer to address the need to defend effectively at set-pieces, we will lose more football matches.

It’s as simple as that.

READ MORE: Priority Numero Uno for the next Celtic manager.