"Last season it was like basketball"; Michael Stewart loving what Ange has improved at Celtic

By David Walton

March 3, 2022

Michael Stewart has lauded the improvement Celtic have shown in the wide areas this season under Ange Postecoglou as he defended recent performance levels.

The Hoops have come in for some criticism despite winning 11 of their last 12 domestic matches. This is due to a perceived drop in performance levels that saw us struggle against Dundee, Hibs, and Bodo/Glimt [x2].

Celtic, however, have still been creating plenty of chances thanks to their threat down the wide areas. The direct style of play from the likes of Jota and Liel Abada have still caused teams plenty of problems, with Greg Taylor and Josip Juranovic providing terrific cover on the overlap/underlap.

Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

And Stewart believes these differing threats have helped Celtic become a lot more threatening down the flanks as he lauded the improvement Ange has made.

Speaking on Sportscene last night, Stewart said: “I think everybody would recognise that in the last few weeks there’s been a little bit of a drop in Celtic’s performances. But the main thing for them at this stage is that they’re still playing very well, they’re creating chances and they’re finding ways to win games of football. They’re sitting top of the table so there’s lots to be positive about.

“But I’m pretty sure that privately Ange Postecoglou will be trying to find a bit of an X-factor back into their performances as we count the games down. Those wide areas last season, it became like basketball. Everything was around the edges, there was nobody that was getting any penetration. Now, when it gets into those wide areas there’s some real pace, decisive play, getting to the byline with cutbacks and crosses getting fizzed on.

Celtic 2-0 St. Mirren | LIVE Reaction

Celtic 2-0 St. Mirren | LIVE Reaction
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“So often you seen Celtic last season they would get into those wide areas and turn back and it just became very easy to defend against. Now, they have that decisive attacking play and it causes problems for the opponents.”

Michael Stewart right to highlight major Celtic improvement under the manager

Credit to Stewart for spotting this because we know how frustrating an issue this was that term. As good as Mohamed Elyounoussi’s numbers looked, for example, he wasn’t one to get to the byline and deliver a brilliant cross into the box.

The same goes for down the right. With James Forrest out for the majority of last season, we often didn’t play with a natural right-winger. Instead, we would look for the likes of Elyounoussi and Christie to cut inside and make something happen in a more central area.

This season, we’re seeing the advantages of stretching the opposition where possible. Both of our goals last night came from crosses into the penalty box. We were able to cause enough confusion with both of them to find our openings and bag a crucial 3 points.

Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Whilst at times things have been frustrating such as our lack of success in the 0-0 game against Hibs on Sunday, Celtic are generally much more dangerous down the wide areas.

We now have a level of pace and skill that just didn’t exist in the team last season. We have a style of play that clearly benefits our wide men and encourages them to take the game to their opposing full-backs.

It’s one of the key benefits of the Ange era this season. And hopefully, the wingers have a huge say as we now enter the title run-in.

In other news, Ange Postecoglou pushing for future Celtic trip to Japan