What Ange Postecoglou has done to dispel a Celtic myth in recent games
Celtic critics across the league would’ve been licking their lips at the schedule Ange Postecoglou had to face over recent weeks.
St Mirren and Livingston in particular were two teams the Celtic boss has struggled against. The Buddies, specifically, managed to keep a hitherto rampant Hoops side goalless in Paisley at the end of 2021. Livingston, well – that’s its own story.
For Rangers fans, and miscellaneous others wanting Celtic to fall, this looked like it might be the time. After all, Ange Postecoglou has no Plan B, right? Against teams who are stuffy, refuse to go forward in numbers and flood the 18-yard box, there just wouldn’t be a way past, right? The prevailing myth was that Ange had to change, or we’d come unstuck in games like these.
Wrong. Very wrong.
And in particular against Livingston, it wasn’t about changing, it was about persisting with what worked. Ange’s team selection have a lot of folk worried, especially with the absence of Giorgos Giakoumakis in the attack. There was a man, after all, who had the physical tools to cope with a low block. Maeda just hasn’t done it.
Except, Maeda played a huge role in both wins. His relentless pressing, his ability to exploit space and his ability from close range helped a great deal in both games. With the pace and invention of Abada and Jota on either side, the Japanese striker answered more than a few critics. We went small against two physically imposing teams, and used pace and guile.
It worked, big time.
Ange Postecoglou has made no concessions as Celtic boss
It would’ve been entirely natural, against opposition like St Mirren and Livingston, for Ange Postecoglou to change it up, tactically. Perhaps football “orthodoxy” would support this; facing two teams we’ve dropped points against because we just couldn’t find a way past them, or were wasteful against.
Why wouldn’t Ange change things? Put tall bodies in the box, try to bypass more imposing defences with lofted transitions of the ball, play more direct?
Well, if anything, he was more determined to use the approach we know works. Take, for example, a game we utterly dominated; Motherwell 0-4 Celtic. In that game, Celtic came out seeking total control, pressed and harried, and made a wave of opportunities. The Hoops had 18 shots on goal, made a ridiculous 521 passes, and ended up with 70% of the possession [Fotmob]. After the confidence of a big win over Rangers, that game was ours from start to finish. No huge shocks.
Against Livingston, Celtic actually created more, and had more of the ball. On this occasion, Celtic had 72% possession, had 24 shots on goal, an an xG of 4.15 [Fotmob]. In the words of Limmy, don’t back down, double down: that’s what Celtic did.
By emphasising “our” brand of football, Ange Postecoglou is yielding results. Why change for one or two games when there’s a whole culture of playing that the boss is seeking?
As he said very early in the season [Scotsman], “If you are a confirmed vegetarian, you don’t drop into Macca’s just because you are hungry, mate”.
Instead of yielding to narratives about how he should play, Ange Postecoglou dispelled the persistent idea that he’d have to change things up. Instead, Celtic stayed the course.
And we’re still top of the league because of it.