Neil Lennon wants Celtic goalkeepers to stop inviting pressure

By David Walton

July 21, 2019

The style of goalkeeping distribution under Brendan Rodgers was a particular frustration for Celtic.

Rodgers didn’t have many faults during his time in Glasgow, regardless of how he left. But his persistence in wanting his goalkeepers to play out from the back often got us into trouble. In key European matches and at times against Rangers, we were fortunate to get away with it as often as we did.

For those who’ve keenly observed Scott Bain’s work under Neil Lennon, you’ll notice we don’t do it as much. Bain quite often tries to go long or look for a wide diagonal.

Scot Bain’s kicking has certainly changed under Neil Lennon(Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

And that’s because the Hoops manager has been telling his goalkeeper to stop inviting that high level of pressure onto his goal. Speaking to Football Scotland, Bain opened up on how his style has changed under Lennon.

“My role has changed slightly under the manager. We’ve tried to look a bit longer in terms of distribution and not invite so much pressure on us. We’re still finding our feet but the games have been good for me because I knew what my new role would be.

“I can look into the second and third lines, longer passes, that take pressure off the boys and get them playing further up the pitch. That’s another aspect of the game I enjoy.”

Goalkeeping distribution needed to change

Fair play to Lennon for spotting this. It was one of the rare frustrations of the Rodgers era. Too often we were inviting too much quality onto us, and too often we were either losing cheap goals or big chances to it.

You can see the advantages of it and why Rodgers was so keen to introduce it. A few quick passes and you’ve beaten the press and have the numbers turned on your opponent. But we never really improved at it under the Northern Irishman, and getting rid of it would be for the best.

Brendan Rodgers always wanted his goalkeepers to play out from the back (Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

That doesn’t mean that Celtic simply become a long ball team. It means there’ll be more second balls up for grabs, of course, but it’s simply allowing us to clear our lines under intense pressure.

You’ll still see Bain more often than not rolling it out to a full-back or passing to a centre-half. But when the situation demands it, Lennon clearly wants the danger swiftly removed via a long ball.

Neil Lennon continues to tweak aspects of the Rodgers era (Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

The phrase “long-ball” was never one that entered the Brendan Rodgers dictionary. We suffered for it too. After all, how many times under Rodgers did we beat a high press and actually then score from it? More often than not, we allowed the opposition to get back into position before we continued our attacks.

So Lenny has clearly spotted this and wants it gone. Celtic will certainly be better for it.