The difference Ange Postecoglou is making to Celtic in Europe
Celtic guaranteed themselves European football after Christmas with a win over Ferencvaros tonight, and what a feather that is in Ange Postecoglou’s cap.
Consider the rhetoric at the start of the season: they said it would be a miracle if we got into the Europa League. We had no chance of doing anything in Europe, at all. Ange only had half a squad. All the rest of it.
Yet, the Celtic manager hasn’t readily admitted defeat, or anything like it. From the first minute against Betis, this side have been right up for the challenges that Europe brings. Admittedly, we were too raw a side to manage the heat and pressure of that Betis game, but it was still a remarkable gesture.
Bayer Leverkusen were streets ahead of us. We are not there yet. But in both games against Ferencvaros – a Champions League team last year – Celtic have dominated and impressed in myriad ways.
A lot of that is in Postecoglou’s approach. In both wins against Ferencvaros, Postecoglou has got Celtic defending in such a way that they’re immediately able to pounce on chances. The confidence the Bhoys have moving forward is unreal; taking advantage of players out of space, tracking back, has been clinical.
It seems like, in the most part, Celtic are responding to pressure in such an encouraging way.
What Ange Postecoglou is doing to make Celtic better in Europe
Yes, there are still tense moments. When Urzuni scored the second for Ferencvaros late on, the alarm bells sounded. But Celtic were brave, continued to seek possession of the ball and were progressive with it.
The attitude is superb. The second Celtic win the ball back, they’re looking to do something positive with it. Meanwhile, in longer spells of possession, the Bhoys are confident on the ball, excellent at recycling the ball, and at times, exceptional.
Another plus point for Ange? Using his squad well. After 70 minutes, he wanted another goal, and he brought on Johnston, Forrest and Giakoumakis simultaneously. McCarthy helped defensively once Bitton had to be taken off, while Liam Scales was able to contribute once Stephen Welsh left the pitch.
In-game stuff is worth considering, but it’s also worth remembering that Celtic missed Carl Starfelt and Tom Rogic tonight. But pretty much every player was on point tonight, using Postecoglou’s instructions to a T.
Consider this; a year ago tomorrow, Sparta Prague beat Celtic 4-1 [Guardian]. We never, ever looked like competitors then.
We are now.
Read more: Chris Sutton highlights 2 Celtic players for praise after stunning displays vs Ferencvaros