Sunday, August 24, 2014

Ten things we learned from ICT-Celtic

Some of these Celtic players have no future at the club
Yes, a team that has made 10 changes is bound to be unsettled, but each one of that lineup will be earning a much higher wage packet than his ICT counterpart.  Yet you wouldn't have known it from watching some of them.  Out of the youngsters, Dylan McGeouch was a particular disappointment.  I'm sure that, when he first emerged three years ago, he had a turn of pace and an ability to beat a man - but whether because of a lack of confidence or otherwise, he showed none of that on Saturday.  Filip Twardzik, meanwhile, had a mare at left-back, but perhaps deserves a Mulligan given he was out of position.  Out of the veterans, Teemu Pukki's attitude was frankly dreadful, and he was hooked at half-time; it may be a while before he gets another shot.  Ronny Deila will not have much trust in flappy Lukasz Zaluska to be his backup goalkeeper.

A sensible move or a lack of respect?
A few years back, every single point that was dropped by Rangers or Celtic against a 'diddy team' could prove critical; now, with no serious opposition over a 38-game season, Deila not unreasonably felt that the midweek game with Maribor was the bigger priority - and it is, with about £12 million on the line.  But it's a sad reflection on Scottish football that Celtic have the resources to do this.  The English Premier League has a rule (which is hard to enforce) insisting that clubs put out the strongest team available; I doubt Celtic will argue for that to be introduced north of the border!

Deila didn't do his homework...
Anyone who had watched Inverness in the last six months would know that they struggle when opponents press high up the pitch.  Yet in the opening 20 minutes the visitors were more sluggish than a 100 metre snail race.  That allowed Caley Thistle to settle and get comfortable in possession..  Celtic should have been better prepared for this.

...but made effective changes quickly
Celtic's dominance in the latter stages of the first half came as a result of their manager's clever tinkering.  Leigh Griffiths and Kris Commons were ineffective on the right flank and up front respectively, but when Griffiths moved into the centre forward role it allowed Commons to drop deeper, where he got between the ICT defence and midfield and caused all sorts of problems.  Commons had several excellent touches in the final third; his teammates failed to make nearly enough of the opportunities he created.

Celtic had no attacking threat from the full-backs
Often I have criticized ICT for being narrow, but it was Celtic who struggled to get the ball wide.  Efe Ambrose, a central defender, and Twardzik started in the full-back roles, and the home side were clearly comfortable with the former being in possession.  He did get to the by-line a couple of times in the later stages but his crossing was dreadful.  At half-time Twardzik was replaced by Stefan Johansen, who isn't a left back either.  Meanwhile Pukki (when he was on), McGeouch, Griffiths (when he was playing wide) and sub Callum McGregor always looked to come inside, where they found a traffic jam of opponents and teammates.  There was a real lack of width without the likes of Emilio Izaguirre or Mikael Lustig.

Is Ross Draper made of concrete?
Draper was absolutely sensational in the midfield area, showing enough strength to battle with the very solid Nir Biton.  The Englishman had one second half tackle (I can't remember who on) where he won the ball with so much force that it registered on the Richter Scale.  At 6ft 5in and built like a lock forward, I wonder if there is a player in this league who is more powerful.

Marley Watkins makes ICT so much better
With James Vincent in the team, Caley Thistle's forwards tend to all end up wandering into the same central area.  Watkins' natural inclination to drift wide offers different points of attack.  It was unclear whether he was under specific instruction to stay on the touchline or whether he just found himself out there, but either way he had a blinder.  His cross for the goal was terrific, and one Cruyff turn in front of the home dugout was absolutely sublime and should be in the highlight reel.

The ICT defence are getting better in possession
It was deeply unpleasant watching Josh Meekings in the last few months of last season, as he tried to get to grips with his manager's insistence on passing out of defence.  The mistakes he made in possession seemed to wreck his overall confidence and his form took a mighty dip.  But Meekings and Gary Warren look far happier with the ball at their feet, and the team now lose possession in their own half a fraction as much as six months ago.  Mistakes will still happen though, and they may be fatal...

Ryan Christie needs a rest
Some papers linked the Highlanders' starlet with moves to big clubs down south recently, but Saturday certainly showed that he's not ready for that step yet.  Christie has pretty decent upper body strength, but he struggled with the physicality of some of the Celtic players.  Of course, he's a young boy and he's played four games in fifteen days; he probably needs a break.

Time to cut Yogi some slack
Some idiot wrote this character assassination of John Hughes last Spring.  Whether Inverness can sustain this form is debatable, but currently the players are happy and the results are good.  That's all anyone can ask, really.


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