Murdo MacLeod has highlighted the woeful Celtic issue of set-piece defending that’s plagued our season.
In our dismal 1-0 loss to Ross County in Dingwall last night, it was yet another cross into the penalty area that done us in. And directly from a free-kick too. Sure, it was a decent free-kick from Harry Paton and it was a cross that was always going to cause bother. However, Diego Laxalt allowing Jordan White to run off him was unforgivable.
Quite stupendously, that was our 14th goal conceded directly from a set-play in the Premiership this season. We’ve conceded a total of 23 goals all season. Yes, that means well over half of our goals shipped this year have come directly from either corners, free-kicks, or penalties.
And MacLeod has had a pop at the centre-backs for failing to do more in both boxes after last night’s latest blow.
Speaking to Sky Sports, Murdo said: “It’s very difficult to deal with it because you’re working as hard as you can as the manager and your coaching staff as well. But when you look at all the set-plays….
“It’s not just the amount of goals that they’re losing, it’s up the other side of the park as well. When you’ve got three guys at 6ft5, 6ft4 running about the box, you think ‘they’re going to win every header that’s available.
“Then you look at Celtic just now and they’ve lost most or half of their goals from set-plays. That can’t happen.”
Murdo MacLeod highlights major point; Celtic not learning from basic mistakes
There’s something ridiculously basic about the set-piece in football. It’s effectively a free hit to try and launch a ball into the penalty area. Seldom in Scottish football do you see any fancy set-piece routines outside of just firing it into the mixer.
Yet we haven’t been able to deal with that all season. Eight of the 14 goals mentioned above have been the direct result of free-kicks and corners. That’s over a third of our goals conceded in the Premiership this season.
Whilst there are perhaps positives to take from the fact we haven’t been breached from open play much, it means next to nothing. Not when you fail to deal with basic crosses into the penalty box. You have to bear in mind set-pieces don’t count open-play cross-balls like Shaun Rooney’s header for St Johnstone. Or Connor Goldson’s second goal in October’s Glasgow derby.
If you’re to add basic crosses to the goals we’ve conceded in the league this term, the total number then sits at 19. 19 of our 23 conceded. Shambolic.
It’s been a major issue for the Hoops all season. And it’s not as if we’ve been getting enough of a reward from Shane Duffy, Kris Ajer, and Chris Jullien in the opposition penalty box either. Between the three of them, in the Premiership, we’ve only managed five goals. Given how many set-pieces we win, you would expect a better return.
So it’s fair to say this has been one of our biggest issues all season. Hopefully, it’s rectified in the summer.