Good riddance to bad rubbish. That sentiment just about covers the depth of Ronny Deila’s analysis of Celtic’s painful 3-1 defeat in Molde which has placed their Europa League ambitions firmly on the line tonight.
“Sometimes you have games you don’t look at afterwards,” said Deila. “You just take it, crush it up and throw it into the garbage.
“There were so many mistakes in that game that it’s not possible to go through it all and that was one of those games. That was not Celtic and it was not something we could be proud of or stand by.”
While Deila’s scathing description of Celtic’s performance in Norway two weeks ago will brook little argument – certainly not from the disgruntled travelling support who berated him that evening – his declaration of it as an isolated case is more questionable.
The three goals conceded by the Scottish champions at the Aker Stadium were a continuation of an alarming theme for them in Europe under Deila’s stewardship. They have conceded 11 goals in their last five European matches, a sequence which began with the Champions League play-off round defeat to Malmo and now sees them at the bottom of Europa League Group A with just two points from their first three games against Ajax, Fenerbahce and Molde.
All told, Celtic have leaked 35 goals in the 23 European fixtures they have played since Deila’s appointment 18 months ago. It is a statistic he concedes needs to be addressed but he remains defiant that will not be done by compromising his belief in a style fully committed to attack.
“The defensive record is the biggest challenge we have,” he said. “We don’t have the consistency of selection in central defence we had last year when we had the best defence in Scottish [league] history.
“So, when you lose players and also have some injured, you have to change a lot. Of course that has an effect, especially when you meet good teams that can give you harder tests. It’s no excuse, but it’s a reason when you see us concede so many goals.
“This is one of the things that we need to do better, but we also have to work on the defensive structure in training more. In Scotland, we attack and stop counter-attacks – no teams are questioning us the other way like in Europe. I am not saying that they are bad, but that is how the games are in Scotland. When somebody is going at us in Europe, we need to work more on this in training and get more organised in there. It is my responsibility.
“At Celtic Park, we are going to be an attacking team. If others are standing protecting themselves all the time, then, okay, that is how they want it, but, if you want to win something, you need to play yourself towards it.
“That is we have so many trophies at Celtic. Because we want to cause the opponents problems, we are going to force them to think about us, then we have to take small cautious steps about them.
“Against Molde this time, it is important that we attack well, and are very well balanced and have a good balance in midfield. If we lose the ball like we did in Molde, then you can play whatever you want. If you are not at it like that night, then you can have any tactics you want. Any tactic is bad when you are not doing it the way you want.
“It was nothing about tactics, it was about being ready for the game and we were not. We looked very uncomfortable on the pitch and everything was sideways. Everyone here knows I don’t like sideways football.
“There were so many key players who performed under their level. It was the team who were not there and that’s my responsibility. That’s what we have to turn around. We have sorted it out since then and now it’s about keeping on doing the same things and believing in what we are doing. Then we know we can beat anyone. It doesn’t change, we improve. That’s totally different. We don’t change our style of play. But we also have tactical things inside our philosophy, so it’s not every time we are going to press high or go with everything.
“We have a very clear style of play, but we just didn’t do our tasks well enough in Molde as a team. We had to bounce back from that, we have done so and now we have a big opportunity to stay in Europe.”
Victory against Group A pace-setters Molde, who themselves can secure qualification if they take all three points at Celtic Park this evening, is a must for Deila’s team if they are to enjoy post-Christmas European football for the second successive season.
The manager is in relaxed and upbeat mood ahead of the assignment, having been buoyed by Celtic’s domestic results since the unhappy journey to his homeland two weeks ago.
Deila also provided a wry reflection on being named the Manager of the Month for October earlier this week as a consequence of Celtic forging their way clear at the top of the Premiership.
“I don’t think there can be any other job where you would get an award like that in a month when you had a result like we had in Molde,” he said.
“You get embarrassed when you get it. It’s not right, it’s not right. No, maybe not embarrassed, but it is hard to see the lines there.
“It was hard for me to see that performance back in Norway, but my head is not in Norway anymore. I’m here in Scotland now and, for me, it is about the pride of doing something here and not about how it is seen in Norway. Games like that have happened before and will happen again, but we have to turn it around and show our better side now. We have done that domestically and now we want to show it in Europe here in Celtic Park. We’ve had good games in Europe here recently and haven’t lost since Salzburg last season. We need to put up a performance which wins us three points.”