Neil Lennon has refuted the idea that his Celtic players aren’t playing for him, despite the fact they’ve won only two of their last 10 games.
The Hoops have failed to overcome the likes of Aberdeen, Sparta Prague (x2), Hibernian, and Ross County respectively in recent weeks. What started as a mini-slump has absolutely blown up and become a full-on crisis.
What’s been most alarming in recent weeks also is our inability to create genuine goalscoring chances. Outside of the five goals scored at Motherwell, Celtic have been in a bad place when it comes to the goal-trail. Two were netted against Hibs whilst another was scored in Prague, but there were no big chances for Celtic outside of those moments, and yesterday vs County, only one major opportunity was created.
That’s led to many wondering whether the manager still has the dressing room. Evidently, it’s a talking point that Lennon is now sick of too.
As quoted by the Daily Record, Lennon said: “I don’t get that. It’s a cliche. They are professional footballers and I didn’t see much evidence of them not playing or not running or not tackling.
“They dominated the game and (Vasilis) Barkas has had nothing to do but pick the ball out of the net twice. We are in a moment where we are sloppy at times and it’s costing us. We are not clinical enough in the final third.
“But to say that they are not playing for the club or for me is an old cliche that gets thrown out when you have a bad run. These players played brilliantly for me for a long, long time and we are stuck in a moment we have to get out of. There are no fall-outs. They are a good bunch and they are suffering a bit at the minute.”
None of this matters now
Lennon can try to shoot down one of our biggest concerns if he likes, but the facts speak for themselves. Even if the players are playing for him, it still isn’t being reflected in the results.
In fact, there’s an argument there to say that if they’re still playing for him, that makes the situation even worse. If this is them trying their hardest and going all in for the manager, where’s the ease for supporters in knowing that they’re going to improve?
If they weren’t playing for Lennon, and it’s so difficult to say otherwise at the minute, then at least you would be safe in the knowledge that a new face/new system would see them pick their game up.
What the manager has inadvertently done here is show the Celtic supporters that our troubles lie solely with him and his tactics. That is, of course, if you want to believe that the players are actually playing for him. I most certainly have my doubts.
It’s not that players want to lose games, that’s not how this works. Regardless of whether you like your manager or not, it’s not about players deciding to just not bother winning football matches. It’s more the fact that a defeat doesn’t hurt them enough. When Celtic went 2-0 down to Ross County yesterday, many gave up exerting themselves. At 1-0, we were happy to just knock the ball around and see if we can wait for an opening – no need to be too assertive.
That is what not playing for your manager is all about, and you’ll find well to see a fan who believes that isn’t the case. Lennon, for all he’s trying to ease the pressure on himself, isn’t going to do it with words anymore.