The subtle but successful tweaks Celtic boss Postecoglou has made in recent weeks

By Euan Davidson

October 21, 2021

Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou, confident and assured as he may be, isn’t scared of changing things up.

Take, for example, his time with the Australia national team. Starting with a back four, he eventually changed the national team’s shape entirely. Tim Palmer, a former analyst for the Socceroos, explains it really well in this blog post from 2017.

He’s not an obsessive “tinker man” a la Claudio Ranieri at Chelsea in the early 00s. He is, though, unafraid of making tweaks and changes to his side to garner results.

For someone who’s so tied to a certain footballing philosophy, the rhetoric around Ange is that he’s inflexible. That Celtic under Postecoglou will attack relentlessly, leave the door open at the back and go all guns blazing. Exciting as that is, and to the extent it’s true, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

Against Motherwell and Ferencvaros, you might’ve noticed something. It was a measure that led to Kyogo’s unbelievable goal, and it came from defending.

Celtic, in their last two games, have allowed opponents to get deeper into our half.

Ange has transformed Celtic, but the best is yet to come | Jackie McNamara on 67 Hail Hail

Ange has transformed Celtic, but the best is yet to come | Jackie McNamara on 67 Hail Hail
67 Hail Hail (Youtube)

Against Motherwell, Celtic sat ever so slightly deeper, allowing the Steelmen to come at them. The majority of tackles were made in our own half [WhoScored?]. 14 tackles attempted, only 3 outside our half. Nothing innately surprising in that, but a contrast to what came before. It worked, with Celtic organised enough in attack to turn successful duels into attacking situations.

The Ferencvaros game followed a similar, successful pattern. The high pressing is still there, sure, but the map [WhoScored?] shows Celtic were happier to cede some possession in order to spark quick attacks at the other end. 17 tackles attempted, 12 in our own half.

That’s essentially how you get that Kyogo goal.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Celtic under Postecoglou are more of an evolving side than one attached to ideology

Compare those two games to the Bayer Leverkusen defeat. Celtic went right at the Bundesliga giants and were punished. Now, again, this isn’t to say the high press and urgency off the ball has disappeared. But the numbers speak for themselves.

A third of the tackles Celtic attempted against Leverkusen were from outside our half. 6 against Dundee United.

The turning point seems to have been the Aberdeen game. Only 3 tackles were made outside our area against the Dons [WhoScored?]. The winner in that game was a well-worked move having been under pressure.

Defence isn’t seen as something that Ange Postecoglou has prioritised during his time at the club. Yet, we’re starting to perform really well from a defensive perspective. Two clean sheets on the bounce says it all, but there’s an ability to both dominate games, and cede possession to spring counter attacks.

That’s pretty good for a manager with no Plan B [Scottish Sun].

Again, none of this is to say Ange Postecoglou is turning pragmatic. Far from it. It’s just that the constant harassing of opponents is improving, and so is what Celtic can do when they win the ball back in their own half.

Tiring opposition out, and letting them try to get at Celtic occasionally, seems to be absolutely working. Postecoglou likely won’t be heralded for what he does defensively, but it’s more than worth discussing.

Read more: Irish rock band Fontaines DC don the Celtic colours before Barrowlands gig