When Celtic play Livingston, it’s always nervy.
Maybe I haven’t got my finger quite on the pulse, but I’m sensing tension. Over the last two seasons, Livingston have caused us real problems. Lyndon Dykes was our undoing last campaign [BBC], this year it’s been a wider cast of foes.
Yet, we have something that we didn’t have before when we faced Livingston in 20-21. While it’s daft to put all the pressure on one player, the resurgent James Forrest could be the answer, in a battle against his brother Allan.
Martindale is a good coach, but he’s a pragmatist at heart. In prior meetings, his aim has been to keep Celtic narrow and use a low block to keep the Bhoys shooting from outside the box. Generally speaking, it’s worked, as proven in 0-0 and 2-2 draws. The latter had all sorts of extra factors; snow, red cards. The point remains though; Livi have a game plan.
Using other formations, or Christie on the right, there’s been a natural tendency to stick to the middle of the pitch when we’re in possession. Against Falkirk, admittedly far worse opposition than today’s, there was far more width, with Forrest getting on the ball constantly throughout.
Provided Mohamed Elyounoussi continues his excellent form and starts on the left, we could be in for an attacking treat. John Kennedy has a massive luxury in James Forrest, that Neil Lennon wasn’t able to use this season.
Look out for Celtic winger James Forrest unlocking Livingston today
In our Predicted XI, we suggested that Kennedy would play a variation on a 4-3-3, which converts to a 4-5-1 in defensive scenarios. That would be the best way of utilising attacking wingers, something we’ve not seen a lot of over recent months. While the 4-4-2 diamond wasn’t without charm, it makes little sense to have a fit James Forrest and not use him.
Similarly, it meant we weren’t getting the best out of Elyounoussi. Nor our full-backs, who were ran ragged. The likes of Diego Laxalt and Jeremie Frimpong looked exhausted by the hour mark on a number of occasions, yet they were entrusted to do the bulk of the attacking play on the flanks.
Over a full 90 minutes, that doesn’t necessarily work. So having flying wingers supporting Edouard makes the most sense for today’s game. Livi’s strengths are the in the middle of the park, with Guthrie in particular having an impressive season. With Forrest, you get a player who makes unpredictable runs. He’s as likely to attack the space in the byline as he is to cut inside and try a shot.
He’s not everyone’s favourite, is James Forrest. However, we probably didn’t realise how reliant we were on the diminutive winger.
Forrest, and the Celtic supporters, will be hoping to make up for lost time.