When Celtic needed a game-changing substitution today, Neil Lennon decided to bring in Nir Bitton and change things to a 3-5-2.
Bitton moved into the midfield, with Leigh Griffiths eventually coming on to take Ryan Christie’s spot up top. Yet if this was a game-changing decision from Lenny, it was a slightly bemusing one.
Celtic were at a stage in the game where they needed to up the tempo. Having as many flair players on as possible was essential as we got desperate towards the closing stages. Bitton’s introduction took away some of the urgency we would’ve hoped to have had in the final 20 minutes or so.
Come full-time, we had the likes of previous derby match-winners such as Jonny Hayes and Tom Rogic on the bench. Surely, at such a crucial time in the match, it would’ve been wiser to go with players who can provide us with more of a spark going forward.
Midfield had enough balance without Bitton
Bitton was hardly seen in the game, and Lenny likely thought that bringing on Olivier Ntcham would’ve provided that cutting edge we were after. But the fact is that Bitton’s role mostly involved mopping up at the back and helping to protect the defence. Was that really necessary at that stage of the game?
The 3-5-2 perhaps made sense given the way the game was going. At the very least it was something different from the manager. However, that’s still a formation we can carry out with Rogic playing as a CAM.
Instead, he brought Nir on. Now Bitton was nowhere near the worst on the pitch. He did what he does and tried to get some passes going to keep the ball moving. However he clearly wasn’t too sharp, and even lost the ball in a dangerous position to Ryan Kent late on.
Looking at the pace Rangers were playing with in the midfield, it was difficult to see what Bitton was supposed to bring. Perhaps it was done with the idea of him spotting a game-changing pass. That is, after all, his main strength going forward.
Outside of that, the substitution continues to bemuse. A few of the fans also got involved as they questioned Lenny’s decision to field the midfielder:
Bringing on Bitton was a shocker by Lennon, Jullien dominated Morelos so why put an extra man at the back?
System didn’t work because of players playing shite, don’t take away an extra man offensively when we need a goal, put on big Tam ffs. Griff a wasted sub anaw, he’s done.
— Sean Hamilton (@seanhammy85) December 29, 2019
3 out of 11 players get pass marks, a terrible performance and deserved absolutely nothing 👎🏼 also what benefit does bringing bitton on when we need a goal give to anyone?
— Sean Connor (@_sean_connor_) December 29, 2019
That defeat is on Lennon.
Sent out a team devoid of ideas and couldn't or wouldn't change it.
With our squad there's no way that we should be fielding such an unbalanced team or making such poor substitutions.
Bitton on when we're 2-1 down.
— Cal MacKenzie (@kombuchis_clay) December 29, 2019