New 'fresh' Celtic, same old problems: 3 things we learned from dire Livingston draw
Well then. Livingston and Celtic played out an entertaining draw in the snow, but Neil Lennon will be tearing his hair out.
The Bhoys could and should’ve won this game, against a side that was resting their best players. The likes of Jay Emmanuel-Thomas and Jack Fitzwater got game time for David Martindale’s side ahead of a testing weekend for Livi.
Yep, that’s where we are: Livingston are resting players against us, and we still couldn’t take advantage. Null and void this season.
In what was an assumed automatic three pointer for the Bhoys, Lennon’s side failed to deliver in bruising conditions at the Tony Macaroni Arena.
Here are 3 things we took away from tonight’s performance.
Celtic’s warm-weather training was worth it, then
Just as well we had all that practice in the warm weather.
— The Grand Auld Podcast (@GrandAuldPod) January 20, 2021
I’m sure there are thousands of virtues where warm-weather training is concerned. I’m not a doctor. Nor am I a nutritionist, sports science expert or anything but outrageously pale.
But looking at the Almondvale (I’m refusing to refer to it as the Tony Macaroni Arena more than I have to) pitch, I have to ask: was Dubai worth it, even a bit?
In the early stages you could tell the freezing cold “all-weather” pitch was disrupting Celtic’s play. Greg Taylor and David Turnbull in particular were making passes that would’ve absolutely travelled that vital few yards on a grass surface.
When the weather became truly horrendous around the 50 minute mark, nobody benefitted. To be honest, you have to wonder if the game would’ve gone ahead if the snow had continued to fall like that up to kick-off.
A lot of the time, Celtic had to bypass the middle and hit long passes out to the wings. Ultimately, it didn’t do us a huge disservice, but it took away the impact of our key midfield men.
A combination of Livingston’s compact shape and the bad conditions meant that when Celtic tried to move the ball around from the 70th minute, there was no penetration.
Then, a raft of bizarre substitutions sucked any momentum from Celtic’s play. Scott Brown got a needless red card. This is no fun.
Elyounoussi’s qualities leave tactical quandary for Celtic after Livingston battle
How do you leave out Mohammed Elyounoussi after a performance like tonight?
The Norwegian international was absolutely everywhere, popping up with an exquisite finish to bring the Bhoys level. His liveliness and end-product were a huge problem for David Martindale’s side all night long, as Celtic took the game to Scotland’s form side.
Thing is though, when at full strength, it’d be hard to argue that Lennon’s midfield diamond isn’t our best look. We’ve spoken about this in the context of James Forrest, but Elyounoussi presents as much of a headache.
Moi can play through the middle, as either a number 10 or just behind a main striker. However, if you put him at the tip of the diamond, that means you either leave out Christie or Turnbull.
As frustrating as Christie can be, I would still want him starting each game. So, what then?
It’s going to be fascinating seeing how Neil Lennon lines up Celtic for our remaining fixtures. Let’s hope the manager can plan and adapt for each game, rather than sticking with one formation until it becomes untenable.
For there’ll be fixtures where width will suit us rather than playing through the middle and vice versa. It’s a nice kind of problem to have, going forward.
A crumb of comfort, from a cake of failure.
Against Livingston, it happened again: Celtic continue to concede from set-pieces
A penny for Shane Duffy’s thoughts?
After taking a nasty head-knock in the early stages against Livingston, Celtic’s big Irishman conceded a needless foul not far into Celtic’s half. It was enough for the Bhoys to concede another goal from a set-piece.
I’m going to sound like a broken record here, but until it stops, I won’t. Celtic have to be better at defending set pieces.
According to Sky Sports, 53% of our conceded goals in the league this season have been from dead ball scenarios. That’s completely unacceptable, and it’s just so blatant that this hasn’t been worked on in training.
Or, worse: it has.
If Neil Lennon is going to make a case for keeping his job beyond the summer, he needs to make this a priority. We can’t be folding under the slightest bit of pressure at the Tony Macaroni, like limp pasta. I don’t know; write your own jokes.