Height issues, underrated stalwart: 3 things we learned as Celtic beat Aberdeen

By Euan Davidson

February 17, 2021

Celtic beat Aberdeen tonight, in what turned out to be… well, not a classic.

Efficiency has been a scarce resource around Paradise this year. We’ve been treated to slapstick defending, frustration up front and bizarre results. Tonight was all business for Celtic against Aberdeen, in a game we should’ve won, and did.

Still, as ever, there are acorns of optimism, and some teachable moments for the Bhoys. For example: Gordon Strachan looks like Noel Edmonds now, and that’s absolutely fine.

Here’s what we learned as Celtic handled Aberdeen with relative ease.

Turnbull celebrates his stunning strike / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Celtic midfielder David Turnbull: good at football

We knew David Turnbull was good. Now we know he’s a genuine match-winner for Celtic.

We’ll get to his goal, but praise is due for his liveliness and delivery. Edouard and Ajeti were both unlucky with sumptuous deliveries from the midfielder. As ever, his range of passing was fully on show, as he buzzed around the pitch. In the first half alone, he had 50 touches of the ball, and made 41 passes [WhoScored?].

The goal, though. With Edouard and Ajeti ahead of Turnbull, making runs to clear up space, the midfielder needed little convincing to shoot. It was a sublime finish, well out of Joe Lewis’ reach. 1-0 to Celtic.

We’ve said this before, but surely Turnbull has done enough to convince Steve Clarke. The Scotland boss must surely be working out how to work the ex-Motherwell man into his midfield for Euro 2020/2021/TBA. It’s such a huge shame that we couldn’t have introduced him earlier.

Greg Taylor: good left-back, not the tallest / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Zonal marking: a potential problem even as Celtic shut out Aberdeen

Moaning about zonal marking is very Mark Lawrenson, but there were a couple of concerns in the second-half.

We’ve talked, at length, constantly, about defending set pieces. 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.

Luckily, Aberdeen were profligate with their opportunities, but against better teams we’ve been punished before. While zonal marking can work, and often does, some wiser decisions need to be made when we’re out of possession and defending an aerial ball.

It seems like simple stuff. We’re not coaches, so there’s probably a world of knowledge that goes into this kind of thing. However, there was an obvious height disadvantage. Simple moves like having Ajer defend Ash Taylor might’ve created more certainty for the Bhoys in defensive scenarios.

Unless Greg Taylor unleashes LeBron James-style athleticism, we don’t think he’s best suited battling our opposition’s tallest players.

Callum McGregor: efficient as ever / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Celtic midfielder Callum McGregor is vastly underrated

Through this run of decent results, one man has gone largely unheralded. That is, by us, and not other clubs.

Often linked with a move away from Paradise, McGregor has been our unsung hero so very often. This was another game in which he led by example. His energy and stamina, coolness in possession and tactical adaptability has gone under the radar. He’s had to adapt from playing a wider position, but still one in which he dictates the tempo of Celtic’s play.

By some distance, he led the team in touches of the ball, and if he ever lost possession, I don’t remember it.

Simply put, he makes Celtic tick. McGregor set up David Turnbull for his long-distance goal, and his constant willingness to receive and recycle the ball was top-notch.

We need to start appreciating Callum McGregor more. We’re lucky he’s allergic to missing matches, because it’d be a lot tougher without his influence.