Ange Postecoglou already has the Celtic blueprint to beat Midtjylland
For Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou and his tactical blueprint, you’d be forgiven for thinking the West Ham game was a bit of a warning.
Friendly or not, Celtic conceded 6. Many managers would heed that as something to retool, rethink. Especially with a game of immense value coming up.
But that’s “many managers”. We didn’t hire “many managers”, it’s Ange Postecoglou in the Celtic dugout. Famed worldwide for his gung-ho, aggressive approach, he was hardly going to get an opportunity at Celtic and then shut up shop.
No chance. And, despite the warning signs at the weekend, Celtic have the tactical approach to overwhelm FC Midtjylland. 1-1 it may have been, but the Bhoys barely gave the Danish side a second to breathe.
This was a sample of the football we were promised. Even with so much on the line, Postecoglou’s preview of Project: Celtic was the blueprint to beat FC Midtjylland in their own back garden.
What do we specifically mean here? The high press for one thing. That fabled pressing. On Saturday, it looked off-kilter, with the inexperience of Murray and Welsh, the changing line-ups and the directness of our opponents. It was parallel to what worked in the Champions League Qualifiers.
Let’s have a look at how Celtic can take the game to Midtjylland. Again.
Maintain the high press against European opposition
Again, if we hadn’t made enough of a fuss over this: FC Midtjylland barely saw the ball. They ended the game with 37% of possession. They were offside six times, had a first-half xG of 0.00, and were trounced for touches, passes and crosses [FotMob].
If you’re not into stats, fair enough. But those ones, I’d argue, paint quite the picture. Celtic were well-organised (generally speaking) from a defensive point of view. Whenever they were off the ball, the Bhoys were lightning-fast in attempting to win it back.
Whenever they tried to get into our half, we either caught them offside, or harried them out of possession.
Doing that puts you firmly in the driver’s seat, and you could tell that’s exactly where Ange Postecoglou had Celtic sitting. The sheer number of chances Celtic had in the first-half alone was staggering. Christie was unlucky with a couple, his shot ultimately being parried into the path of Liel Abada.
Yes, we were systematically undone by West Ham. But it was a friendly. The intensity is just not the same, and they’re an exercise in just trying stuff out, and seeing what works. Ask Paul Lambert.
Asking Postecoglou not to utilise the tactic again is utterly pointless. So, expect to see more of this; the desire to win the ball, to be proactive in defence, and making things uncomfortable for FC Midtjylland.
The Ange Postecoglou Celtic blueprint: Playing it short, utilising width
So what about when we win the ball? Very simple; keep doing what Celtic were doing last time.
The Bhoys were fast, direct and controlled it well. That’s reflected in the stats; of 507 passes, 86% were accurate [FotMob]. That will surely sneak up to a higher percentage in weeks to come.
Because having the ball is fine and well, provided you’re doing something with it. Celtic most assuredly were; with Abada and Christie both seeing plenty of opportunity to find the final pass, or cut in for a shot.
Christie looks far, far better on the left than on the opposite flank. His dynamism is perfect foil for Abada, who loves to attack the byline. So, at the risk of talking a good game from the comfort of a laptop: more, please.
Midtjylland just didn’t have the answers for Celtic’s aggression on the ball. That told, and while the Bhoys could’ve been more clinical, the repeated knocking of Midtjylland’s door worked, and really should’ve yielded more goals.
Celtic can absolutely do this, it’s about sticking to the Ange Postecoglou blueprint.