Last night wiped out season's most irritating Celtic narrative
Remember when Celtic had a “weak defence”, Ange Postecoglou was a gung-ho manager whose team leaked goals, and Carl Starfelt was a disaster signing?
Yes, entertaining the most hyperbolic of Scottish football narratives is a thankless, often pointless task. Anyone who watched Celtic with any attention-to-detail early on would’ve seen that yes, we were a bit frail, but there was something building.
Especially after Cameron Carter-Vickers came to shore things up at the back. We’re at a point now, though, where we can completely debunk one of the more irritating and baseless assumptions about Ange and this Celtic team. Because if last night showed our attacking talents, it also showed a calm and resoluteness at the back.
Let’s talk individual performances. Josip Juranovic was absolutely sublime. In one of the best full-back performances against Rangers of this generation, he made 14 (fourteen!) ball recoveries. He won 4 of his duels, made 2 perfect tackles and was generally an utter powerhouse [Fotmob]. Cameron Carter-Vickers won 6 duels, and made 6 clearances at crucial times.
Carl Starfelt was crisp in his passing, but was also solid defensively. 4 recoveries and 4 clearances set the tone for a commanding display. Greg Taylor, meanwhile, who came into this game with doubts surrounding him again, won 12 duels. Twelve. It says everything that Amad Diallo was brought off at half-time; nobody was getting past Taylor last night.
These are surreal numbers, especially for a Glasgow Derby. Especially in the second half, Rangers did try to threaten our goal. Celtic, though, had other ideas, and it was easily the best defensive showing we’ve seen from the Hoops this season.
Celtic defence beyond reproach in brilliant thumping of Rangers
So can we now, at long last, put this utter myth to bed?
It wasn’t just the back-four, either. Across the park, the Bhoys were showing incredible determination to harry and harass any Rangers player on the ball. For 90 minutes, the energy was intense off the ball, and of course, on it.
Last night proved many things, of course, but it was the epitome of the defending as a unit that Ange Postecoglou has wanted from his team. Yes, the back-four were inspired, but every single player in Green and White last night was desperate and determined to get the ball back.
This is how you want your team to play. It should feel like a personal slight if the opposition have possession at all. Within seconds, Rangers knew they were in a game, and whether we had the ball or we didn’t, the effort was constant.
That’s what it takes. That much is very clear, and provided we’re able to establish continuity over the summer, any defensive unsureness from early Ange-era performances will be entirely consigned to the past.
In terms of attacking play, we all know Celtic were dynamite. Reo Hatate, Liel Abada et al are rightly taking plaudits, as well they should.
But take a bow Josip Juranovic, Carl Starfelt, Cameron Carter-Vickers and Greg Taylor.
Last night, the other lot just didn’t have a hope.
24 games played, 13 conceded in total, just 2 at home [SPFL]. I think it’s fair to argue this Celtic defence is doing just fine.