Why Celtic display against Charlton offers hope for supporters
It’s only Celtic v Charlton [Celtic FC]. Everything we’re going to say about Celtic in pre-season is going to be caveated. A quarry, rather than a pinch of salt. A lot of something, or even more of nothing.
And so, it’s important not to get caught up in moments, however exciting they are. But it doesn’t mean we can’t take kernels of encouragement from the positives we see, nor fret about concerns that emerge from pre-season.
That’s football. It’s a reactionary business.
All of that said, let’s talk about Celtic’s first half display against Charlton, because it was a very interesting of sign of what could be to come under Ange Postecoglou. “Ange-ball” has yielded two wins from two so far, with radically different tactics to what we’re used to.
I touched on this in my “3 things we learned”, but the high-line, initiated with a confident Vasilis Barkas, yielded plenty of opportunities. The first minute and a half, it was only Celtic on the ball. The passing was varied, with players creating at least 2 or 3 options in support. As far as Barkas, he was operating as an auxiliary defender, comfortable on the ball and in starting attacks.
Off the ball, the intensity was constant. A frustration with last season was that in one game, we’d be all over the park, harrying the opposition. Then in the next, Celtic would be passive, and vulnerable on counter-attacks.
Charlton don’t represent the standard of opposition we’ll be playing. But they barely got a sniff of the ball in the first 45 minutes. Rather than starting with jitters, as against Sheffield Wednesday, Postecoglou’s side were commanding, constantly busy, and capable of exploiting pockets of space.
If these are the early indications, a lot has changed at Celtic as Charlton display shows
Certain players really stood out, today. Greg Taylor is improving constantly, and his time away with Scotland left-backs Kieran Tierney and Andy Robertson will have served him well. Often used as an out-ball in the first 45, Taylor was happy to overlap Adam Montgomery, who lined up ahead of him.
Crosses came, and Taylor – without much in the way of a pre-season break – looked energetic and suited to what Postecoglou tries to get from his full-backs.
On the right, Ralston had a better game, and that, too will offer encouragement. Callum McGregor, in an all-action role, was leading by example, while Soro looked tenacious as ever.
Fine; admittedly that second half wasn’t such a great watch. Ultimately, that’s what bringing on an entirely different XI will do. And yes, putting too much stock in pre-season friendlies is absolutely a fool’s errand.
But that’s not to say that there isn’t encouragement to be taken from this. We’re prepared an overhaul at Celtic, and after the awful displays we saw in 20-21, it’s imperative that fans have something to get excited by.
The constant motion, the exploitation of space, actual opportunities close to goal; it’s already a radical departure from the “Lennybol” era. And after an intensely forgettable season, these were the things we hoped to see from a new Celtic manager.
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