After this afternoon’s dreadful performance at Celtic Park, which resulted in a 2-1 defeat, Neil Lennon’s team end 2019 as disappointingly as Brendan Rodgers’ side did in 2018.
Make no mistake, just as at Ibrox a year ago, Celtic got exactly what was deserved today – absolutely nothing.
We head into the winter break with a bit of soul searching to do and much improvement to make, or risk seeing our extraordinary run of trophies in Scotland come to a shuddering halt.
Perhaps most worryingly of all, Lennon, his coaches and his players learned zilch from a Hampden display earlier this month that was far from good enough either.
Lessons not learned
Celtic appeared to have no answer to what Rangers offered in the League Cup final, with Steven Gerrard’s midfield and defence at Celtic Park again managing to isolate both Ryan Christie and James Forrest, two of our most dangerous players this season so far.
Unfortunately, we hadn’t seemed to work on ways to foil Rangers’ marking or pressure, leaving much of our attacking onus on the shoulders of the inexperienced Mikey Johnston and Jeremie Frimpong, both of whom struggled to make much happen in the final third, even though they tried hard.
There was really no cohesion from defence to attack apart from in short bursts. Our rushed passing was at times horrendous and gave the visitors far too much of a foothold in the game.
The pattern of the match was undoubtedly similar to much of that day at the national stadium. How did we manage to take Gerrard’s team for granted again? We were well warned.
Lennon can’t let it happen again. There are two more derbies at least this season. He needs to find a way to outplay them.
Winter break is welcome
Although this is far from an excuse, we have played nine matches since the start of December and the team, to me, looked noticeably devoid of energy compared to at points prior in the season.
It should be mentioned though that Rangers have only played a game less, so it’s not like they were entirely fresh and well-rested.
Nonetheless, the winter break is most welcome and the squad recharging their batteries in Dubai has appeared to work well in seasons past.
If we can fully rest up and come back with a point to prove, while adding quality and depth to key areas via the transfer market, we should be in good shape for the second half of the season, despite what was on offer today.
Last season’s resilience was impressive
If there are any positives to think of after a result like that, it’s that the guts of this team have bounced back from similar blows in the not too distant past. They can do it again.
After defeat at Ibrox last December nobody really expected Celtic to be so good in the early months of 2019. However, Rodgers found the right blend in his team and Lennon then took over and powered us towards a third successive treble.
Although today’s result is a body blow, it’s not a knockout one. Celtic are still in this fight.
If we can show the resilience of last term and dig in, we have more than enough quality and experience to win the title again.