Celtic just needed to beat Hamilton tonight.
That was all that was required. No drama, no upheaval, nobody embarrassing themselves. Just a home win against a side we’ve already conquered in recent history [BBC].
Neil Lennon made some (delete as appropriate) interesting/infuriating selections ahead of the match, but it worked out for the Celtic manager. The Bhoys played with the kind of intensity and swagger that has been missing for so much of this season.
Who knew that using a system that suits our best players would work? Here’s what we learned from a comfortable Celtic win against Hamilton Accies.
Midfield movement, chances galore
In the first half, Celtic looked fluid. Clearly, with a week off to reflect, Lennon decided to return to his midfield diamond. Elyounoussi was played as a 10 instead of Ryan Christie, and it worked a treat.
With Soro’s endless stamina and positivity, the Bhoys easily turned defence into attack. The Ivorian’s quick passing combined well with the industry of Ajer and Taylor. From there, Turnbull and McGregor had plenty of space and options.
Triangles, as well as a diamond, were the name of the game. In possession, there were at least two options either side of the ball-carrier, with pockets of space being found between the two lines of Hamilton’s defence. This meant that the dual focal points of Edouard and Griffiths saw plenty of the ball.
Griffith’s tidy strike was an example, with Turnbull providing sharp passing. When Griff was on the ball, he had the choice of McGregor, Edouard, Elyounoussi and Ajer to pass to, if the shot wasn’t on. But on, it was.
Callum McGregor and Ismaila Soro won’t win headlines for games like these, but their consistency playing next to each other is remarkable. Barely a pass went astray the entire game, and their contribution should be recognised.
With the midfield diamond, Celtic look so much better in possession. With Griffiths and Edouard’s enterprising runs, the midfield have acres of space to operate, with support coming in from wide positions. It just works, and Lennon should stick with it for the rest of his spell at the club.
Celtic strikers Edouard and Griffiths on scoresheet against Hamilton: next step is consistency
As frustrating a thought exercise as it is, try to imagine if we’d been allowed a fully fit Griffiths and Edouard playing up front together all season.
Both have struggled with injuries, fitness issues and of course, in Eddy’s case, Covid-19.
I’ve defended Edouard before, as I happen to think he’s still our best player. He’s had to put up with a smorgasbord of issues in 20-21, yet he’s still scoring goals when he’s fit. He’s worth much more than £20m, I know that for certain.
So to see his cool finish to give Celtic a 2-0 lead was incredibly reassuring. Griffiths and Eddy switched instinctively throughout the game, with one making runs behind the defence and the other seeking possession to create an opportunity.
Edouard mustered 57 touches, with remarkable eagerness to receive the ball and help to co-ordinate attacks [WhoScored?].
They’re a devastating pair together, and our season has suffered immensely through missing them. Unlike last season, the pair have never truly managed a significant run of games together. Looking at the league table, it is – again – hard not to imagine how things would be under luckier circumstances.
That doesn’t absolve Neil Lennon of course. His endless tinkering in the formative months of the season cost us any kind of consistency. It’s just something to think about, is all.
Excellent Taylor makes claim
Greg Taylor put in another solid performance at left-back. With Diego Laxalt unlikely to sign for Celtic permanently, the ex-Killie man continues to build his portfolio.
Aside from a missed interception in the first half, the Scotland international was an effective contributor. Not only was he reliable defensively, on a night where Hamilton seldom threatened. No, he was also an attacking threat, providing crossing options and width in possession.
Neil Lennon seems to have changed his opinion on Taylor over time. Given Laxalt’s international reputation and generally decent displays for the Bhoys, you’d expect Lenny to start the Uruguayan 9 times out of 10. However, Taylor must be training well to back up his good first-team performances.
With Hamilton never really threatening the Celtic defence, no questions were answered. Scott Bain had little to do, while Duffy had a quiet night. A considerable percentage of the support wouldn’t have liked either player being selected, but they by no means disgraced themselves. Really, they had little opportunity to.
As a learning experience, this game didn’t deliver. Thank goodness for that.