EVEN the best teams lose games but Fenerbahce will need to bounce back from their shock Europa League defeat to Molde with a win. With that next fixture coming this Thursday at Celtic Park, Ronny Deila is acutely aware of the possible backlash.
“I think we’ll meet a team hungry for revenge after their last result in Europe and they are a team with a lot of quality. It’s going to be a very interesting game, a very exciting game, something to look forward to.”
The calibre of the individuals at the Turkish club is not disputed, with summer signings Robin Van Persie and Nani bolstering a squad which already boasted a group of international names imported from several of the most credible leagues in Europe. But, the fact that they still lost out to the Norwegian underdogs in the first night of group matches, suggests that they have not settled seamlessly.
Dutch striker Van Persie, below, has only had one full game since signing, managing 60 minutes here and there but, for any worth he offers on the pitch, he is portraying himself as a detrimental force off it, publicly undermining the head coach Vitor Pereira in a recent match as he shooed him away. One of President Aziz Yıldırım’s signings, the former Arsenal and Manchester United front man obviously sees himself as untouchable.
It has not hindered the team in the league, setting the pace in the domestic campaign, but it could limit his involvement in Glasgow and signals chinks in their armoury and adds extra pressures which Deila will hope his players can collectively exploit.
“Every coach has challenges,” said the man whose team drew their opening group fixture away to Ajax. “It’s the same at under 11s, Third Division, Celtic, or Fenerbahce. It’s the same things – you have to get the players to believe in what you’re doing. You have to drag them in the right direction, together, as a manager.
“If you can do that, you have better players at the biggest clubs, but there are so many things affecting them. For Fenerbahce, like at Celtic, the fans are amazing, the expectation levels are very high. There are so many other things that affect a team.
“But you need players that are hungry and want to learn. That’s always a challenge with players who are older because some of them are more relaxed and thinking about what they have done before rather than what they have done in the future.
“I haven’t seen what he [Van Persie] has done. I need to have the weekend to sit down and watch games, but we know at his best he is a very good player. If he’s on his best he’s going to be a challenge for our defence.
“At Fenerbahce they have pressure all the time, like we have here. That’s something they have to deal with. They have started well in the league, they are up at the top, but everybody can lose a game – it’s how they react to it. We just have to make ourselves prepared and play at our best, then we’ll have a good chance to beat them.”
Like most of Europe the Celtic boss was surprised by the hefty 3-1 home loss to Molde and while he still has more analysis to do before finalising a gameplan, he is aware of the success his countrymen had through solid defending and playing well on the counterattack.
That may be more of a problem for Celtic, given the defensive frailties which have been shown up against the best teams and have been exacerbated by the departure of Virgil Van Djik.
Deila, though, is a man who believes in evolution and improvement. That is only viable if players are willing, and able, to learn from errors and, the onus is on players who have the most experience on this stage.
“Since I came here I think this is our 22nd game in Europe in just over a year, so it’s a lot of experience for the players. A lot of players are learning and adapting quicker because they get the opportunity.”
Studying for coaching badges and taking charge of younger age groups is also a valuable learning tool, as far as the Celtic boss is concerned. He began his graduation from player to coach early in his career so he was better prepared when the final transition was made. With guys like Scott Brown going through that process now, he is confident that his captain and leader on the pitch will gain an even better understanding of the game.
“I need here at Celtic a culture of reflection. It’s not about winning or losing. Yes, we want to win but we have to learn from every experience because if you do not reflect on what you are doing you will stand still. And you will make the same mistakes and also the same good things. But if you are going to evolve and get better you have to reflect. If players are doing coaching then they are reflecting. What am I actually doing? Is it something I believe in? And then a good coach is very clear and can say what he wants. I have done it for a lot of years but I am still very young with so much to learn.”