Celtic showing promising improvements in distribution from the back

By David Walton

August 15, 2021

Celtic may have wanted a more fitting scoreline against Hearts this afternoon, their improvements when it came to distribution from the back was clear to see.

The Hoops managed to overcome Robbie Neilson’s Jambos with a comfortable 3-2 success. Celtic were cruising at half-time thanks to a dominant opening 45 minutes that had them 2-0 ahead. Hearts put up a resilient fight in the second half, but the quality of Ange Postecoglou’s side showed.

There were undoubted concerns that the manager will be looking to tackle. Carl Starfelt’s moments of sloppiness for the penalty was another worrying faux pas from him. As was the way he left Aaron McEneff was left unmarked to slot home their second.

However, what was so exciting about this afternoon was how often Celtic were beating the Hearts press.

It’s been a constant target of Postecoglou’s Celtic to lure the opposition into our own half. To pass it around the backline in order for our rivals to sniff danger and over-commit to a press. This allows Celtic to attract a host of opposition players deep into our own half before stretching them with some accurate passes out from the back.

There have certainly been plenty of mistakes in recent games when it comes to this. Whether it be a player closed down quicker than we realised or simply poor passing, it’s taking some getting used to.

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Celtic players are buying into Ange Postecoglou’s method; improvements on show

However, today, it was a huge part of much of our joy against Hearts. Celtic were constantly managing to beat the press due to the accuracy of their passing and off-ball movement.

Granted, captain Callum McGregor has been dropping deeper in the last few matches to help out. His composure and technical ability has been key to offering Celtic a passage out from the opposition’s press. Today, he was given the exact same role.

Hearts tried desperately to put the pressure on the likes of Stephen Welsh, Anthony Ralston, Starfelt, and Greg Taylor. All of them managed to keep their heads and not do anything silly when moving the ball around. Eventually, the ball would be played forward to McGregor and Hearts would be left exposed.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

So much of Celtic’s attacking play is coming from the large swathes of space left in the middle of the park from beating the press. This allows the likes of David Turnbull and Tom Rogic to do some real damage. Same goes for when we attack on the counter.

Hearts tried desperately to force mistakes from our backline in the second 45. Outside of one loose pass from Starfelt, however, they got no joy when they pressed. Instead, Celtic used it to give themselves extra space going forward.

This will have absolutely delighted Postecoglou. This is how the manager wants to play. He wants a composure and a control to our passing out from the back. You can see the urge from the players to carry that out too.

Yes it will continue to force errors on occasion – we won’t pretend today was flawless. But there are big improvements being made early doors, and it’s going to lead to plenty of chances for Celtic in an attacking sense.

In other news, Sutton and Stewart get stuck into interesting debate on Celtic man Leigh Griffiths

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