A new Neil Lennon plan appears to have been integrated into the team in recent weeks.
With both Mikey Johnston and Mohamed Elyounoussi struggling for fitness in recent months, it’s given Lennon an idea. James Forrest has often been switched out onto the left in their place. That’s then forced Ryan Christie to go on the right as opposed to his natural number 10 position, where Olivier Ntcham has instead picked up the mantle.
He most recently carried it out against Aberdeen on Saturday. The 2-1 success over the Dons may have been narrow in terms of the scoreline, but Celtic still created a plethora of chances. Previous matches against Hearts and Hamilton have also seen this come into effect.
Yet despite the fact it hasn’t halted our winning run, some fans don’t believe we’re getting the best out of certain players in that specific system. Here’s what some had to say on it:
Next Sunday. Christie in the 10 let him press, Forrest on the right and Johnstone on the left. Lose far to much when Christies no central and pressing from the off. Up the Good Guys x
— Mire CSC (@TheMireCSC2002) December 22, 2019
We need to stop playing players out of position,like Forrest,Christie.Hayes.But we keep getting the results which is the most important thing at this stage.Hail Hail.
— Tony Jardine (@TonyJarine3) December 22, 2019
Have the fear we’re going to go into the next Sunday with Forrest on the left and Christie on the right. Forrest a total passenger out there and your losing one of Christie’s main attributes of pressing and pressuring defences when he’s out there IMO. Hope he starts MJ.
— Michael Mclean (@mikeymclean1987) December 22, 2019
Forrest is wasted on the left and same with Christie on the right. At times this season, it hasn’t work and it’s a big concern. Next week, Forrest on the right, Christie in the middle behind Eddy and Johnston on the left.
— Seany 🏴 (@Seany_CFC) December 21, 2019
We've been a bit lucky a few times lately. Ntcham & brown together doesn't work. Forrest on the right is a must. I'd start Mikey on the left next week. Christie back in the middle too.
— Séan 🇮🇪 (@CelticSean81) December 22, 2019
It's easy to criticise when results are bad, but takes a proper fan to be critical when we are winning.
Forrest and Christie both wasted in this formation
Don't @ me Hail Hail!
— CiaranBolingoli (@Cjbradley86) December 21, 2019
Christie out wide, Forrest on the left ☹️ pic.twitter.com/dVZB9JKMS8
— Liam (@LK95_) December 21, 2019
Everyone in their natural positions for Sunday
The supporters are pretty spot on here. Christie, whilst providing the assist for Odsonne Edouard on Saturday, is certainly limited on the right. The fact that defenders know he’ll always look to cut inside is a giveaway.
Yet, in fairness, how can you complain about Neil Lennon’s selections? He still won the game 2-1, and Celtic managed to fire in 28 shots against the Dons (BBC). Those numbers look great regardless of what shape you play.
Ntcham has most certainly returned to form playing as a number 10, but that remains Christie’s position. It’s the latter who must start at Parkhead next week. If Lennon goes with Ntcham, it should be in a slightly deeper role, but it’s highly doubtful he drops Callum McGregor or Scott Brown.
It’s also clear that Forrest comes across as highly-restricted on the left side. He just doesn’t get into games as much, and considering he hasn’t scored in any of his last five league games, the proof is in the stats.
That’s not to say he isn’t getting the chances. He missed a sitter at Tynecastle and also managed assists against Hearts and Hibs respectively. But Forrest doesn’t look comfortable in the positions he finds himself in on the left.
It’s not a system that’s failing us, but it’s hugely divisive and controversial amongst supporters. Celtic are still getting the points, and Lenny clearly feels the need to rotate. However, Celtic just seem to flow better with players playing in their right positions.
St Mirren on Boxing Day will give us a good chance of seeing whether Johnston will be fit or not. It would be ideal to give him more minutes before the Rangers game, but he has to be 100% ready to play next week if he is to start.