Two 10s and Greg Taylor? How Celtic tactical gamble could pay off on Sunday

By Euan Davidson

December 18, 2020

Celtic beat Kilmarnock last weekend. It wasn’t just unusual in the sense that it was a league win.

It was a result that followed protests, debates over team selection and an unlikely victory over Lille (Sky Sports).

Pertinently, though, it was a result based on tactical experimentation by Neil Lennon. Utilising a Christmas Tree formation, the Bhoys lined up with two attacking midfielders, Greg Taylor on the left of midfield, and Ajer on the right of a back three.

Needless to say, it worked. Neil Lennon should do it again for the Cup Final on Sunday.

 

Celtic beat Kilmarnock last weekend / (Photo by Craig Foy/SNS Group via Getty Images)

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Suddenly, Celtic have multiple options

The emergence of David Turnbull is interesting for a number of reasons. Foremost, it proved us absolutely right. That’s always a bonus.

Although he played with Elyounoussi against Kilmarnock (WhoScored?), Neil Lennon might be tempted to have Turnbull combine with Ryan Christie on Sunday. Between the two of them, the shooting and service could be devastating.

Greg Taylor, meanwhile, by no means disgraced himself in a Celtic shirt last weekend. Laxalt will most likely be preferred for the Cup Final, but Taylor’s re-emergence in an advanced wing role is interesting.

Like Bolingoli, Taylor’s ability to shuttle up the flank was questioned by the support. When he got forward, he often left space for opposition wingers to exploit. However, he was decent against Killie, and looks like he’s out of the cold at Celtic Park.

Back to the midfield, the Soro/Brown debate has been covered plenty. Going forward, it looks like it’ll be a battle for who plays next to McGregor. However, Lennon also has the option of dropping one of Christie or Turnbull deeper in this 3-4-2-1 shape.

With the extremely capable Elyounoussi able to play a number 10 role himself, there are so many options for Neil Lennon. He’s gone from picking a frustrating XI to being able to utilise the depth of his squad.

For Celtic fans, that’s enormously encouraging.

 

Christopher Jullien is likely to start in a back three / (Photo by Rob Casey/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Likely scenario for Sunday

Neil Lennon is steadfast in his preference for a back 3. Regardless of how frustrating that looked early on this season, the recent results have been inarguable.

Turns out it was personnel that was the problem. While it’s not necessarily a shape that lends itself well to creative freedom in the middle, Turnbull has proven that that doesn’t have to be the case. With two number 10s who start centrally and can drift wide, Lennon can field a properly frenetic team on Sunday.

However, we don’t think that’s the likeliest scenario. While the shape may remain, Brown is likely to take Soro’s place. Equally, Lenny will look to shoehorn Christie in somehow.

Elyounoussi has been a trusted confidante for Lenny this season, but his role may change from the one he had last Sunday. Frimpong started on the right of midfield, but will he continue there? If so, where does that leave Ryan Christie? Could Turnbull miss out with Lennon preferring his more experienced heads?

In any event, Neil Lennon (or Lurgan Klopp, if you prefer) has gone from having an automatic starting XI to an exciting, tactically versatile squad to choose from. Yes, realising that came too late. Still, it’s better to have happened now than not at all.

There are plenty of players who arguably deserve a nod for Sunday. It follows then, that a number of those players will be left disappointed.

Meanwhile, we wonder if Lewandowski really made the right choice ten years ago.


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