When I was writing an article earlier, I realised something very strange:
Celtic only have 4 first-team coaches, including Neil Lennon.
Many supporters mischaracterise John Kennedy as a defensive coach. That’s a staff role that doesn’t exist; the ex-defender is an assistant to Neil Lennon. Granted, he helps to co-ordinate the defence, but in pure terms, he is not Celtic’s “defensive coach”; there’s far more to his job than that.
Alongside him, there’s Gavin Strachan, and Stevie Woods, the goalkeeping coach. Given that Neil Lennon isn’t said to be particularly involved in training, that means Celtic are using a skeleton staff, to say the least.
If this doesn’t seem particularly odd, consider our European contemporaries. A side like Atalanta, in Serie A, employ two first-team coaches and three fitness trainers [Serie A]. Rodgers’ set up at Celtic was larger, and that continues to be the case at Leicester City. Even Rangers are outflanking us, with two assistant managers in a staff of 5.
Surely, that can’t be right. It means that all phases of play are directed by two actual training ground coaches, assuming that Kennedy and Strachan fulfil those roles. Although, with that said, Strachan seems more like a performance analyst than he does a coach.
We don’t know exactly how involved Neil Lennon is with actual coaching. Certainly, he’s less hands-on than Ronny Deila or Brendan Rodgers before him.
So, what’s going on there? And what might Celtic benefit from?
Celtic staff need an attack-minded coach
Celtic don’t seem to be particularly cohesive anywhere on the pitch. However, in attacking scenarios, things vary wildly from match to match. There used to be reliance on wingers, particularly Scott Sinclair and James Forrest. In fact, even for large phases of last season, Elyounoussi and Forrest were encouraged to cross and cut inside.
Now, the importance of full-backs is emphasised, with a diamond midfield preferred. But even with a narrower formation, more play is being made through the middle, with two strikers ahead. Sometimes, it looks good – the movement of Ajeti and Griffiths can unlock defences, with Edouard the focus of opposition attention.
Still, the goals scored column is lacking compared to seasons prior. Strikers like Leigh Griffiths, Albian Ajeti and Patryk Klimala haven’t been prolific. David Turnbull and Ryan Christie often shoot, but are often wayward (despite Turnbull’s immense quality).
So, a coach specifically hired to help the attacking side of the game would be an advantage.
Celtic’s first-team doesn’t have a dedicated fitness coach. Given that Neil Lennon wants his players to use a high press, with constant pressure on the opposition, that’s utter madness.
Someone specifically geared towards building conditioning and stamina would be an obvious advantage. There’s no way of making it clearer than that. Whatever is in place isn’t working.
There are examples at almost every big club. Liverpool, for example, have both a conditioning coach and a fitness coach. Granted, they’ve been immensely unlucky with injuries this season. But over the last 4 or 5 years, Liverpool’s improvement, with an aggressive Gegenpress, has been helped massively by dedicated staff [Transfermarkt].
Set piece/defensive coach for the Celtic staff
People laughed when the aforementioned Liverpool hired a throw-in coach [Sky Sports]. For some, it was a ludicrous example of modern football, the micro-management of players, blah blah.
However, the Reds had a specific problem, and brought someone in to deal with it. Celtic can do the same by bringing in a coach specifically dealing with set-pieces, given that we can’t score from them, nor defend them.
What a job this would be for someone with the right qualifications. God knows how many more points we’d have if we weren’t so brittle with the ball in our box. All it takes is organisation, not the bizarre half-way house of zonal/man marking that Neil Lennon seems to prefer.
The next manager should either have an assistant who can organise a defence, or Lennon should bring in an extra body. What we have just doesn’t work. Ultimately, it’s cost us the league.