Lennon tinkering, hopeless defending; 3 things we learned from Celtic v St. Mirren

By Euan Davidson

January 30, 2021

Well, that was no fun. In any other season, Celtic v St. Mirren at home would be an automatic three points. St. Mirren haven’t won at Celtic Park since 1990.

Yet, on current form, this game looked difficult. Despite St. Mirren picking up only their first win of 2021 on Wednesday (like Celtic), Goodwin has talked a good game this season. They’re legitimately aiming for a top 6  finish. Still, you’d expect Celtic to win, no matter how bad our form.

Instead: nope. Another tactically inept, toothless display. It’s genuinely getting hard to remember Celtic being good at this stage, and that’s no exaggeration.

Let’s look at 3 factors from Celtic v St. Mirren, Lennon’s “Mowbray Moment”.

 

Kristian Dennis scores the first goal for St. Mirren / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Hands-off defending culminates in Buddies goals

Against the run of play, St. Mirren’s first goal came from very little. A simple progression up the pitch was allowed by a complete lack of urgency. Once again this season, Shane Duffy lost the run of his man, and Kristian Dennis took advantage.

It wasn’t just Duffy though; any sort of pace seemed to unsettle the entire midfield and defence. Callum McGregor just let the move develop past him, and a back-tracking Greg Taylor was all at sea.

It was typically poor stuff from Celtic, defensively. Playing Ajer on the right is the problem here – there’s nobody who shares his ability to efficiently organise a defence and keep a line. Duffy and Bitton aren’t capable of doing that. Both lack the stamina to press, and so they allow space to opposition attackers.

Bain really should’ve saved it, too. All in all, a grim goal to lose.

The second was even worse. There is no redeeming feature to playing Shane Duffy at this point. He completely lost Ilkay Durmus to put away an easy finish, from a throw-in that should’ve been defended much more efficiently.

Kristoffer Ajer looked lost trying to guard the seemingly unthreatening set-piece. He’s much, much better in the middle.

The deficiencies in Celtic’s defending are staggering. This is untenable.

 

Neil Lennon watches a different game from the rest of us

I don’t have any UEFA coaching badges. I’ll admit it. If you were under the impression of anything different, I’m sorry.

But surely, if you’re 2-1 down at half-time, taking a striker off isn’t the best way to go about winning a match. Call it crazy, but it seems to me that’s daft.

Lack of service was the problem, with Celtic not really making too many opportunities, even with two strikers. A lot of that was down to tempo rather than personnel. When Edouard did score to equalise in the first half, it was from a good piece of play. So, if Leigh Griffiths had to come off, why was it for Tom Rogic?

Tom Rogic, as much as he’s adored, has done nothing of note for Celtic in a substantial length of time. We had two strikers on the bench at the time, and Lennon’s lack of faith in either Ajeti or Klimala is staggering. Then, Neil Lennon displayed little enthusiasm for an equaliser, as he slumped in his chair through the second half.

Until, that is, Ajeti and Ryan Christie came on after 62 minutes. So, we decided to play 15 minutes of the second half without a striker, and when nothing happened, it was back to two strikers. The blameless Soro came off, too. It was a bizarre set of changes.

His substitutions are so often regressive, and almost completely antithetical with what’s happening on the pitch. It’s a bad trend that has lost us matches. I’m genuinely struggling to remember a time when Lennon’s in-game tinkering won us three points – St. Johnstone, perhaps [Sky Sports]?

 

Neil Lennon / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Chopping and changing leaves Celtic without rhythm against St Mirren

While the Bhoys looked relatively comfortable against Hamilton, this was a different game entirely. Lennon resisted temptation by sticking with the same formation and personnel as Wednesday, but the glaring issues were even more apparent today.

For some reason, the midfield diamond just wasn’t clicking. While Soro wasn’t bad, per se, it was more that he was ineffectual. Yet, he wasn’t replaced by a player of his type, so when Lennon tinkered, the midfield shape fell apart completely.

Soro’s lack of sparkle showed how dependent we’ve become on the Ivorian. In the second half, there was so little direction or impetus. Christie came on to, seemingly, blast the ball into the empty stands ad infinitum.

Up front, Edouard tried his best, but Ajeti seemed confused in a role as deep-lying forward. Neither saw much of the ball in the latter stages, with endless desperate long balls in the middle of the park going wayward.

God. This was just… it was just really bad.