Projecting Celtic under John Kennedy; possible tactics, style

By Euan Davidson

February 24, 2021

With Celtic appointing John Kennedy as an interim manager, there’s plenty of discussion about the shock departure of Neil Lennon.

The reaction has been widespread. We’re wondering who’ll replace Lennon long-term, and what the next few months will be like off the pitch. Names like Eddie Howe, Roberto Martinez and a host of others are being linked with moves to the East End of Glasgow.

However, in the short-term, John Kennedy is our manager. Like it or loathe it, the former first-team coach and Assistant Manager is taking the top job until June. It’s been met with a mixed reaction, not least because he represents the old regime under Neil Lennon. Plenty are arguing that total freshness is needed, and that he and Gavin Strachan should’ve been out the door, too.

That won’t be the case, however. Not unless something utterly catastrophic happens against Aberdeen. Players fighting each other, losing 30-0, that kind of thing.

So what will John Kennedy’s Celtic look like? Here are a couple of ideas.

Celtic attacker James Forrest is primed to return under Kennedy / (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

John Kennedy to revert to 4-2-3-1

John Kennedy served under both Ronny Deila and Brendan Rodgers before becoming assistant to Neil Lennon. Respected at Celtic Park by all who’ve worked alongside him, Kennedy will have absorbed all the managerial lessons he could ask for.

With that in mind, I would suggest that Kennedy will try to recapture what made Celtic so good to watch under Rodgers, and for much of Deila’s time at Parkhead. That means a 4-2-3-1, with plenty of width in the attacking areas. It’s an exciting thought, especially with James Forrest coming back.

We’ll see a true central midfield partnership with Callum McGregor and Ismaila Soro. A double-pivot, the Ivorian and the inevitable future captain will operate different areas of the pitch. McGregor, the more attacking of the duo, will be tasked with recycling possession and finding wide options for a pass.

Soro, meanwhile, can recover the ball from defensive positions and motor forward. Akin to something like Kanté and Drinkwater at Leicester City in 15-16, the duo could forge a lethal partnership. From the engine room, everything else becomes easier.

Just ahead of them, David Turnbull will be entrusted with providing opportunities for Odsonne Edouard. Linking with a possible combination of Moi Elyounoussi and James Forrest in weeks to come, we could see Celtic taking more shots and being more clinical from closer to goal.

Could we see wee Karamoko get a game? / (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Expect to see more youngsters

It took a long time for Lennon to incorporate Ismaila Soro, David Turnbull and Stephen Welsh. With Kennedy almost certainly guaranteed a role at Celtic after the summer, don’t expect him not to experiment.

After all, there’s nothing for him to lose, really. Realistically, he’s unlikely to be the next Celtic boss. That is, unless, the board go for another cheap, “safe” option, akin to re-hiring Lennon.

Kennedy is as well going for broke. With Karamoko Dembélé and Armstrong Okoflex not extending their deals, the former defender may feel that the best course of action is to convince Celtic’s youngsters that there are opportunities. Given that the title has nearly been sealed for the new club south of the Clyde, there’s little risk here.

There is, however, considerable reward. Not only would it help to win over supporters, it also may yield results. Arguably, players under 22 have been our main stars this season. A smattering of Academy talent might help to bridge the gap somewhat.

Apparently, this is what “tactics” look like (Via Getty Images Creative)

Tactics! Actual tactics under John Kennedy

If we know anything about John Kennedy as a coach, it’s that we don’t know much about John Kennedy as a coach. That said, Damien Duff claims that Kennedy’s eye for detail and planning are second to none.

Duff told Open Goal:

“It comes down to detail, his detail is second to none, I’ve never seen detail like it. Some coaches can be like Ray Charles and not see things that are going on in the game whereas John doesn’t miss a trick. He sees the problem, “how are we going to fix it?”. Absolutely frightening.”

That indicates, to me at least, that Kennedy has an actual tactical vision. We barely saw that under Neil Lennon, and Celtic became awful to watch under the ex-captain.

It’s heartening to know that we’re going to have an interim boss capable of doing his homework on opposition. That means there’s reason to be optimistic about better performances, more tactical direction and a renewed sense of confidence in the dressing room.

That can’t be a bad thing.

READ MORE: We’ve had a staffing update as another Celtic veteran enters the fray