What Celtic need to have worked on closely during free training week

By David Walton

March 13, 2022

One of the key themes Ange Postecoglou has pushed this week is excitement – excitement at having a full week of training uninterrupted by midweek games.

Indeed, he’s quite right to have been buzzing with it. Goodness knows it’s been a relentless schedule for the Hoops in 2022. With games every 3 or 4 days, it must’ve been hellish for Ange when it comes to actually working on tactical elements of the game. So much of his time will have been spent allowing the players recovery time.

During this period, we’ve started to notice a frustrating trend when it comes to attacking and defending set-pieces. Thankfully, the Hoops appear to have improved on the former after set-piece strikes against both St Mirren and Livingston in our last 2 games respectively.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

However, when it comes to defending them, that’s still a real weakness in our game at the moment. Back in February we conceded 2 sloppy set-piece efforts against Aberdeen. Dundee then came to Parkhead last month and profited on 2 more.

Celtic managed to end their Livingston hoodoo last weekend in impressive form. Yet what went unnoticed was that our set-piece frailties were actually on show once again. Ayo Obileye managed to clip the crossbar with a header and force Joe Hart into a stop from a free-kick and corner respectively.

Not forgetting the fact that Livi’s goal came from a long-throw in which we managed to lose the first header. It was a solid display in West Lothian, but this Achilles heel of defending set-pieces was on show once again.

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Why is Celtic set-piece improvement so important this week?

Some may be wondering why there needs to be a strong emphasis put on set-piece defending this week of all weeks. Well, first and foremost, just because we haven’t been punished by them in terms of results yet doesn’t mean it won’t happen between now and the summer.

If some work on positioning and winning aerial duels this week stops us from dropping even 2 points further down the line then it’ll all be worth it. Especially at this time of the season.

Let’s also not forget that tomorrow night we’ll face Dundee United in the Scottish Cup quarter-finals. United have used set-pieces and cross-balls to good affect against ourselves and Rangers this season. In the 1-1 game at Celtic Park, Ian Harkes bulleted a header in for the Arabs after getting in between Carl Starfelt and Josip Juranovic respectively.

Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

In United’s recent 1-1 draw against Rangers at Tannadice, their goal came from a towering header from Ross Graham. That’s without even mentioning the natural height they have in their team in the shape of Graham, Charlie Mulgrew, Ryan Edwards, and Harkes just to name a few.

If United are going to get some joy against us tomorrow night, it’s going to be from winning first-balls from set-pieces. It’s what they’ll play for given they’ve enjoyed success in that area in recent times.

Ange needs to have made that a priority over the last week. We understand that no football team can be perfect, but training is all about improving the areas of your game that are struggling. Celtic’s main issue, then, remains their inconsistency with corners and free-kicks coming into our box.

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