Celtic and set-pieces: a tale as old as time by this stage.
Sorry for evoking Beauty and the Beast there, but the point remains. The Bhoys have been absolutely useless at defending set pieces for ages, now. This season in particular: at one point over 40% of goals conceded by Celtic were from set pieces [Scotsman].
It’s utterly dire form, and it’s something that John Kennedy and his squad will be determined to improve upon. Admittedly, things have picked up since Neil Lennon left, with only 1 goal conceded over our last four matches [WhoScored?]. Against Raith Rovers in the Scottish Cup, though, David Martindale’s Livingston took advantage of a corner. You’d expect them to attempt repeating the trick against us at the weekend.
It’s simple stuff, and the Fifers will be disappointed to have conceded. A tall, whipped ball comes in and eventually, Fitzwater sees it home [BBC]. Fine; it took Livi until extra time to see off the Kirkcaldy side, but it’s an aspect of our game that needs improvement, and fast.
This Livingston side are no mugs, as Celtic know all too well
John Kennedy has to do two things that Neil Lennon couldn’t, this season.
- Beat Livingston convincingly
- Sort our biggest weakness
Livi have been a bogey team for us since they returned to the top-flight. In the Premiership, we’ve come undone at the Tony Macaroni Arena, with laboured performances on the plastic pitch. Thankfully, we’ve got our own surface this weekend, but they’re a tall, physical side who will look for dead ball situations from the first whistle.
Our last encounter against Martindale’s side was all too memorable. Scott Brown was sent off needlessly, and despite scoring twice against Livingston, we only came away from a snowy Lothian with a single point [BBC]. The first goal Livi scored in that game came after a needless foul, a free-kick and the inevitable aftermath.
Welsh and Ajer certainly look more composed as a working tandem, but both can be guilty of giving away needless fouls. They’ve got to focus on staying upright, or even winning the ball without having to make challenges. Against us, teams are making the most of contact because they know what can happen.
That goes for corners, too. Like Jim Goodwin earlier in the season, opposition managers will be more than aware of the Bhoys’ achilles heel.
This Livingston match, then, is a massive test for Celtic interim boss John Kennedy. Whatever his long-term ambitions are, he can be known as the manager who finally sorted out Celtic’s bizarre deficiencies in the most basic scenarios.
That’d be a feather in the coach’s cap, no doubt.