Another 2-1 Loss at Pittodrie Narrows Gap to Three Points
In light of Celtic’s defeat last night at Pittodrie, I would expect that the Celtic support will not be short of opinion pieces to digest in whichever form of media is their respective preference today. With this firmly in mind, I intend to keep this article fairly short.
Currently, taking an average from the start of this season until now, Celtic are conceding one goal for every 7.55 attempts which their opponents achieve. However, at this stage last season, with forty games having been played in all competitions, the equivalent statistic was one goal conceded for every 10.97 attempts an opponent may have. Whilst it would be naive to blame the team’s results on any one aspect of their play, I cannot emphasise the importance of this statistic enough. Celtic are not only conceding more goals than they did this season, they are conceding them far more easily, and this is a matter of the utmost concern. Don’t forget, in sixty-one competitive matches during the last campaign, the Hoops conceded forty-four goals. This season, we’ve now lost forty-two goals in forty competitive matches, and it’s only the start of February. Indeed, in our last two matches, our opponents managed a combined total of fourteen attempts, ten of which were on target, with five resulting in goals. The Celts, on the other hand, had twenty-two attempts, eleven of which were on target, scoring just twice.
Conversely, the team’s attacking department (although far from perfect), have marginally improved their performances this season, scoring ninety goals in forty matches whilst they managed eighty in the same period last time around. However, this is not only down to them being marginally more prolific in front of goal in terms of taking chances (one in 7.23 attempts scored this season versus one in 7.91 at this point previously), but also because they have managed to have produce attempts and shots on target than they did last season. Critically though, attempts are one thing, but clear cut chances – which were sorely lacking last night – are something else entirely. After all, Celtic had eight shots last night whilst Aberdeen managed seven, but who do you think posed the biggest threat going forward?
The irony of all this is that worries are rife within the Celtic support whilst our main striker, Leigh Griffiths, is on course to have the best goalscoring season of any Celtic player since Henrik Larsson. Of course, with the greatest respect to Griffiths, I would not put him in the same class as the Swede, but the point stands. He is just three goals away from equaling the best season returns of both Gary Hooper and Scott McDonald in the Hoops (thirty-one goals in fifty-one and fifty-two appearances respectively), With a remarkable twenty-eight goals in thirty-four appearances, Griffiths either scores or assists once for every 75.88 minutes (on average) he plays this season, whilst his twenty-one league goals represent a higher total than that of his four nearest teammates combined (Tom Rogic, six; Nir Bitton, five; Kris Commons, four; and Nadir Ciftci, four; a total of nineteen in all). No Celt other than Griffiths has hit double figures in the goal charts in all competitions during the 2015/16 campaign, with Kris Commons being the closest with nine. Granted, Leigh Griffiths may not be perfect, but I dread to think where we would be at present without him.
Celtic’s remaining SPFL fixtures, prior to the split of the league, are as follows: Ross County (H), Inverness Caledonian Thistle (H), Hamilton Academical (A), Dundee (H), Partick Thistle (A), Kilmarnock (A), Heart of Midlothian (H), and Motherwell (A). There will also be a trip to Dens Park to face Dundee, although following the postponement of the original tie, a new date is still to be confirmed. Celtic have yet to defeat Hearts or Kilmarnock in the league this season, whilst Motherwell have already beaten us at home, Ross County triumphed in the recent Scottish League Cup semi-final fixture, and Partick Thistle lost only to a last minute winner in the New Year. On paper, these should be eight games wherein we target eight victories, but when one considers that we have only managed to keep four clean sheets in all competitions since we hammered Dundee United by five goals to nil on the twenty-fifth of October (a total of eighteen matches), this could prove a very difficult task. Unless we can find a way to solidify the defence, particularly whilst Jozo Simunovic is out for approximately six weeks, we will continue to rely on the attack and Leigh Griffiths to get us through the months ahead.
Something is wrong at Celtic Football Club, but in all likelihood that “something” is a conglomeration of numerous factors. Personally, I do not believe Ronny Deila will be sacked presently, although that it is simply speculation on my part. However, I do feel that he is on the proverbial brink, and should – for argument’s sake – Celtic lose their next league fixture and Aberdeen win to bring themselves level with us on points, this may change. Fundamentally, the hierarchy at Celtic Park must know all too well that if the unthinkable were to happen and the Hoops were to fail to win the league title, there would be widespread calls – quite correctly – for their departure from the Football Club as well as that of the manager. They will not allow that to happen without throwing the dice and changing the manager, but this will all depend on when they believe the severity of the situation to be so great that they have no choice but to gamble.
I still maintain the sincere hope that Celtic will retain the league title and win as many of their remaining matches as possible, but hope can only get us so far. The pressure is building at Celtic Park, and whether it’s results, form, attitude, strategy, the manager, the coaching staff or the hierarchy, something must change to allow this pressure a release. Let’s hope it’s the former.