How Elyounoussi and Forrest could help Celtic in the Glasgow Derby

By Euan Davidson

March 17, 2021

For Celtic, there’s no such thing as an unimportant Glasgow Derby.

The stakes don’t matter. Yes, the league’s done, that’s unavoidable. But find me a Celtic supporter who doesn’t mind losing on Sunday, and I’ll find you a liar.

John Kennedy certainly has a job to do. As we discussed earlier, it’s a massive audition for the interim boss, whether for Celtic or someone else. His coaching career doesn’t end in the summer of 2020. What he does next is anyone’s guess, but he’ll be desperate to land a blow against our fiercest rivals.

Rangers, sadly, have been rampant. They’ve enjoyed a fantastic season, especially by their standards. Ultimately, we have to come to terms with that, and let the rebuild begin in earnest. In Glasgow Derbies prior, we’ve made it far too easy for them, either by defending from sloppy set-pieces or failing to take our chances during dominant spells.

Our rivals south of the Clyde rely heavily on the impact of their full-backs. Whether it’ll be James Tavernier or Nathan Patterson on the right, and Borna Barisic on the left, a lot of play comes through them.

There’s a way Kennedy could set up that might negate that.

Keeping their full-backs quiet will be a key / (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Width could be key for Celtic in the Glasgow Derby

Kennedy could choose to continue with a modified version of the diamond. It nearly worked last time, and by now, it’s what the players seem used to. But for Celtic, Kennedy could make a Glasgow Derby gamble and go back to the 4-2-3-1 that’s worked so often against Rangers.

Primary to that would be two wide players who are constantly pressing. That’s where Mohamed Elyounoussi and James Forrest come in – provided of course, that Forrest is fit.

We’ve had indications from the club [Twitter] that Forrest is a possible starter for the Derby. With his boundless energy, and Elyounoussi’s tactical nous, their job might not be necessarily focussed on attacking. Defending from the front, Forrest and Moi could be tasked with relentlessly pressing the opposition full-backs.

Doing that would create obvious problems; it would force Rangers into the middle of the park, where you’d have thought a combination of McGregor, Turnbull and/or Soro/Brown would be instructed to get tight on the Gers midfield. Out of possession, focus and energy would be required to make Gerrard’s side uncomfortable.

We saw elements of this central midfield press in the last meeting between the two sides. Until Bitton’s sending-off forced Lennon to make changes, it was having a measure of success.

Blocking off their full-backs

While Forrest might not be fit enough to last 90 minutes pressing relentlessly, there are other options. Ryan Christie can fill in, given his more than decent stamina. Alternatively, Jonjoe Kenny can be moved forward, with his defensive instincts being used to press from the front.

Barisic and Tavernier have combined for 14 assists this season [WhoScored?]. They are key men that Celtic have to block off, because if we allow them to influence the game, it could hurt Celtic.

Kennedy will be cognisant of that. He’s had two weeks to work on shape with his squad, the longest period of pure, uninterrupted coaching time he’ll have been afforded since Lennon left in late February. His time to impress a tactical style on the squad is now.

Very much of the Rodgers school, you’d surely hope that at the very least, the Bhoys will have been drilled on their opposite numbers on the park. That kind of tactical preparation seemed absent under Lennon, and it’s cost us this season.

If Kennedy prioritises making life difficult for Rangers’ most dangerous creators, while keeping their midfield narrow and battling the likes of Hagi and Kamara off the ball, then we could be on to a winner.

READ MORE: Finally; some common sense on our captain.