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Celtic 6-0 Inverness ‘Caley Thistle: A wealth attacking options on display

September 23, 2010

Celtic blew ICT away in the Co-operative Insurance Cup Third Round, displaying attacking fluidity and good defensive discipline in the process. A number of fringe players – Wilson, Mulgrew, Ki and Crosas – were given a run-out at various points throughout the game, and their performances showed the increasing competition that Neil Lennon is instilling into the side. There are at least two options in a variety of positions now with a particularly fierce competition for places developing in the forward line. Samaras, Hooper and Stokes all netted and laid claims for the role of primary striker. With Murphy also performing his duties well so far this season, it will not only be interesting to see how this battle develops but it is also good to see the option of four strikers, each with their own qualities.

Celtic were fielded in a 4-4-2 formation for this game with and intriguing selection of strike-partnership of Stokes and Hooper. Some might say that these two are too similar but they showed that intelligent footballers can play together, link-up well and switch roles when required, and that there is more to both of their games than goal-poaching. The other claim is often that you can’t play with two small forward but this isn’t always necessarily the case when the team’s style is based around off-the-ball movement and quick passing.

Disciplined Defence

Defensively, Celtic were organised and solid, showing a desire to get back into formation, which was pretty much a standard 4-4-2 without the ball. They kept minimal distance between the midfield and back four, holding a rigid defensive block into which they invited their opponents, before pressing them aggressively. This is something seen right across the continent at the moment – confirmed by the comments of Gerard Houllier: “The trend is to bring the opponents into a defensive block and then aggressively press the ball…” – and yet another example of the modernisation process in place at Celtic at the moment.

Celtic's 'defensive block'. In this instance, two players aggressively press the ball (shown by arrows)

Fluid Attack

In attack Celtic showed good fluidity – a requirement of an attacking 4-4-2 – and adopted a variety of shapes in the process. Numerous players throughout the side were involved in the attacks, with a great deal of position switching and only Loovens and Majstorovic told to concentrate solely on defence. One particular trend was for either Juarez (playing on the right) or Samaras (left) to push up alongside the front-two to form a front-three and create quite asymmetrical shapes. The off-the-ball movement and high tempo passing was both unpredictable and too much for ICT to handle. After Celtic gained a comfortable lead, the game was pretty much over as a contest and from then on the ICT side’s confidence dipped and subsequently so did their performance. Celtic, on the other hand, showed a great level of enthusiasm from start – a change from recent matches – to finish, and this, combined with ICT falling away is adequate enough explanation for the one-sided scoreline. To be fair, had Celtic shown the same level of ruthlessness in front of goal in these sides’ last encounter then a similar scoreline might have been the result.

Strong Transitions

An area in which Celtic showed more consistency was the transitional phases. As stated earlier, when the ball was lost each individual was disciplined enough to know their role and get back into their defensive position. When this wasn’t possible, there was enough organisation in place for a defensive chain-shift to ensue, with whoever nearest the ball at the time it was lost tasked with quickly trying to win it back, whilst another would take on said players defensive role and in-turn another would do the same respectively (if required). For example:

Celtic also showed an improvement when transitioning from defence to attack, with more players looking to quickly take advantage of the opposition’s weakened defensive shape as a result of pushing them forward for attacks. Transitions are fast becoming the most important part of football, just ask Jose Mourinho, and so it’s good to see an improvement from Celtic in this previously weak area. If this continues and so does the ruthlessness in front of goal then scorelines like this one won’t be a one-off.

All in all, a thrashing of the opposition in which they fall apart isn’t the best place from which to make tactical analyses in great detail and so aside from the aforementioned, there isn’t a great deal to comment on. Hopefully, these kind of displays will become more frequent and will draw back the fans in greater numbers. Bring on Hibs…

Full Lineups



Wilson, Majstorovic, Loovens, Izaguirre (Mulgrew 12);

Juarez, Ki, Ledley (Crosas 65) Samaras (Maloney 75);

Stokes, Hooper

Subs not used: Rogne, Cervi


Proctor, Tokely, Munro, Golabek (Foran 45);

Hayes, Cox (McBain 60), Shinne, Duncan, Ross;


Subs not used: Duff, Rooney, Esson

p.s. Look out for the latest issue of Celtic fanzine, Not The View (, in which Tictical Analysis are featured…

5 Comments leave one →
  1. ajaxbhoy permalink
    September 23, 2010 8:05 pm

    Won’t say the article is excellent again, as they all are. My questions though are: Did we employ anything this disciplined against Braga or Utrecht, now wondering whether we can compete in Europe with this squad (1 goal conceded in 6 Scottish matches)? Second question is how should the squad compete against the “910” formation that Rangers will surely employ when we meet in a few weeks?

    Hail Hail

    • September 23, 2010 11:52 pm

      The answer to the first question is no. In the Braga games I think the team generally didn’t do as badly as was made out, but instead made silly but very costly errors. The shape wasn’t as good as more recently but overall it was more a team finding its feet. The Utrecht 2nd leg, Celtic were all over the place defensively which I think was largely a mental issue. Whether this was complacency or nervousness, without the right mentality the players won’t perform properly.

      As regards the derby games, I think the way we’re heading is suitable, though I’d prefer something more like to the 4-2-1-3 we’ve seen this season. We’re trying to add more unpredictability to our attacking play and this is important when playing against packed defences. We look most inventive when Maloney plays in that central role. We’re also getting more disciplined defensively, and doing so as a unit rather than becoming disjointed when we lose the ball. It’s far from perfect but it’s getting there. This time next year I predict we’ll have a settled side with a good spine that won’t require as much surgery but tweaking (or perhaps a couple of quality additions) and we might be able to compete in Europe again.


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