Ange Postecoglou looks to have ended a big 2022 Celtic issue over the last week
There’s no denying that set-pieces had been a growing concern at Celtic both offensively and defensively.
This had been emphasised in 2022 after failing to score directly from a set piece in the early stages of 2022. Whilst Celtic would consistently rack up the corners and freekick opportunities, it never felt as though we were enough of a threat.
It’s made little sense too when you consider how prolific we’ve been from cross-balls in recent months. Liel Abada’s winner against Dundee United came from a deep cross from the right. Liel Abada vs Rangers arrived after a great ball from Reo Hatate. The same goes for 2 of Giorgos Giakoumakis’ 3 goals against Dundee.
But in our last 2 matches against St Mirren and Livingston respectively, we’ve seen some real improvements from our set-piece play. For example, Cameron Carter-Vickers volleyed home after a Jota delivery to give us the breakthrough against the Buddies.
Yesterday, it was a Carl Starfelt header from a Jota corner that led to Daizen Maeda’s tap-in. Not to mention the fact we were a constant threat particularly in the first-half when it came to set-pieces. Both Starfelt and Carter-Vickers both had big opportunities in either half to add to our lead from direct corners.
There’s no denying that much of this success has come thanks to the crossing ability of Jota. As good as Matt O’Riley has been, he hasn’t been putting in the same quality of balls as his Portuguese teammate.
Celtic finding more efficiency with their set-pieces
Of course, things aren’t perfect defensively from set-plays as of yet. Livingston again showed that up yesterday. Ayo Obileye hit the cross-bar and forced Joe Hart into a fine first-half stop. Livingston’s goal also came from a deep throw into our penalty box.
This follows seriously poor set-piece goals that we’ve lost in recent weeks to the likes of Aberdeen and Dundee. We were also hugely unconvincing defending corner-kicks in the 2-0 loss away to Bodo/Glimt. Big improvements are still to be made in that respect.
But it’s clear we’re starting to become more dominant when it comes to our set-piece play going forward. This is something that’s become a running joke amongst the Celtic support in recent months. A failure to score directly from set-pieces has always tended to frustrate.
But it looks as though the improved deliveries from Jota are playing a key part in that improvement. As is the more aggressive nature in which Starfelt and Carter-Vickers in particular are challenging for the ball.
No, it doesn’t mean we’re going to score every game from a set-piece. We won’t threaten as much as we disappoint when putting the ball into the opposition box. But our opportunities from dead-ball situations are becoming much more regular, particularly over the last week.
Hopefully, this is a sign that Ange has ended our set-piece woes in an attacking sense. Next up, brushing up on our defensive side.