There is only one word to describe our performance this November – inconsistent!
Juventus Vs Celtic
Until that Dundee United game immediately prior to this Juventus match (see results screenshot), it was only the Old Lady who had beaten me in competitive fixtures this season.
Despite knowing from last months analysis that Juventus do well against 451 (aka 41221) formations, I still went with this against their 352. However this time I opted to try and control the match, given that we were playing at home.
On the whole it was a fairly even game although Juve created far more chances that we could. It was a great concern that, once again, when we got the ball we couldn’t do very much with it.
We did well with a free kick to open the scoring but Juve equalled on the 32nd minute. When they eventually took the lead on the 80th I changed to my usual 4231 but failed to get anything back.
That said, I am proud of the players performances, if only we could have created more chances…
Celtic Vs Zenit
The final home match of this Champions League campaign was against Zenit. I really needed the win here to keep myself in with a chance of 2nd place.
As with all home matches in the Champions League, I started aiming to control possession, in spite of the talented Zenit team before me.
Although possession was roughly equal and Zenit had a large number of chances, I did feel that we were the stronger side. We got off to a great start, going 1-0 then 2-0 up in the first half. In the second, we even managed to get a third before Zenit pulled one back. However their joy was short-lived as Kerzhakov was sent off in the 67th minute and they never got back in the game.
But the players held on remarkably well and credit goes especially to Izaguirre and Samaras who were lethal down the left side.
With one match left, we’re still in 2nd place. However the last fixture is away to Chelsea. Since we are two points ahead of them, we must simply avoid defeat to go through. If we lose, we will be in the Europa League.
In the SPL, although we beat Dunfermline comfortably, my 2nd string sides were comprehensively beaten by both Dundee United and Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
Against Dundee United our persistent fouling did us no favours but the score was already 4-2 when Marcus Fraser got sent off. I’m more concerned at the number of very poor performances on the day though and that we could not defend.
The Inverness game also contained a lot of fouls (with fewer cards) but equally poor defending.
But what’s interesting about this game is that I tried a different setup for defending set-pieces. This was in response to over a months-worth of Match Training Focus on “Defending Set-Pieces” yielding more complaints from my assistant manager that we were vulnerable from set pieces. I agreed, we did seem to be letting in a number of goals from free kicks and corners.
But Inverness scored two goals from corners, and we defended them miserably.
My question is – how do you defend your set pieces?
Unsurprisingly our lead at the top has been cut down. From 8 points two months ago to 3 today is quite worrying.
In Europe, as a whole the team is playing well. Samaras is leading the way but Matthews, Rogne and Mulgrew deserve praise. At the other end, Assuncao could be better while the younger players Laursen, Forrest and Watt haven’t really been given enough time to be judged.
The overall ratings also make good reading – Hooper, Samaras are top dogs again but Polworth is playing extremely well for someone so young. There’s also great performances from Rogne, Mulgrew, Izaguirre and Matthews. At the other end, Fraser and Laursen are struggling a little and I am becoming concerned about Laursen. I cannot see me turning his loan into a permanent deal the way he’s playing.
Remarkably, this is the first month in a long time that I have no injuries!
The Reserves (mainly made up of U19s) remain top of their league, by 6 points with a game in hand.
The U19s focus is now only on playing in the Reserve League as they are out of both the U19s Scottish Cup and the Next Gen Series.
I am going to look at changing the U19s manager. However I cannot decide if I should replace Miodrag Krivokapic now or later.
We made a tiny loss of just £0.3m. Tax (£1.6m), Player Wages (£1.2m) and Match Day Expenses (£1m) were the biggest expenses while Gate Receipts (£4.2m), Prize Money (£0.9m) and Match Day Income (£0.8m) were the greatest sources on income.
While in Europe, we had one excellent and one unlucky performance, it was the inconsistency in the SPL which gave me most concern.
This was coupled by a worry that the team seems unable to defend particularly well at set pieces.
So how do you defend set pieces?