Celtic to make changes as Ange Postecoglou speaks on performance levels
Postecoglou was far from impressed by what his players served up at both ends of the pitch in Wednesday’s 2-1 win over Livingston. The result may have maintained their nine-point lead at the cinch Premiership’s summit but the Australian coach labelled parts of Celtic’s display “unacceptable” and lamented a lack of ruthlessness at both ends of the pitch. Admitting to be frustrated at such failings, he can expect a reaction when St Johnstone, in fifth place and on a good run of form themselves, come to Glasgow for a 12.30pm kick-off on Christmas Eve.
“What’s important for me is I want us to play well,” said Postecoglou. “My mood’s kinda dictated by how we play, our performance. As much as I love winning, and hate losing and those things you get measured by I’d rather we had put on a better performance against Livingston. Within that context we have been very good for a long time. We just have to make sure we don’t just start believing things will happen as a consequence of us going out there and sort of playing the style of football we want. That has to be backed up by some discipline, and resilience around our football.
“I believe we need to hit certain levels of performance and play the game a certain way. I say that because that is where I think is the road to success. If you just focus on the winning, you are going to miss opportunities like midweek to learn, and evolve. You know I could have walked away from Livingston and say, ‘we’ve won against a difficult opponent’, but that would ignore the areas we could improve. I think the players are well aware of that and they’ll be disappointed we didn’t turn up as we needed to.”
Postecoglou operates wholly within an honesty-is-the-best-policy approach when it comes to appraising his players. He has not been short of plaudits for the majority of his team given the success they have had under him, but he knows in the value of calling them out when the level dips below a certain threshold.
“I try and stay as even-tempered as I can in terms of analysing what I see and what is important to us,” said Postecoglou. “And the players relate to that and become accustomed to that so when we do our analysis we do it in the absence of the scoreboard and what it shows up there. We just look purely at the football we play and the kind of team we want to be. I think the players would probably be disappointed if I had walked in to the dressing room after the Livingston game and ignored that. There were times on Wednesday when we didn’t stick to our principles and weren’t disciplined. That’s what they expect of me and that is what I expect of myself.”
One of the areas of the Livingston game that vexed Postecoglou so much was the lack of bodies in the penalty box to take advantage of chances created. “It was really clear for me in midweek that balls were going in the areas and there was no-one there,” he said. “When you look back at the vision, players who should have been there chose not to be there. It was a decision. And when that happens I need to go back and question why, why people aren’t getting in those areas. In a game of football the hardest thing to do is to score goals. We know that, and we’ve been pretty good at that, particularly against teams sitting pretty deep. We have certain ways we try and unlock teams. It’s not easy to do and it’s a big process to get to that point. But what you need at the end of it is people making sure we are fulfilling their roles so we can take advantage of the hard work that precedes it.”
Celtic are likely to make changes to their starting XI against St Johnstone, although part of that will be down to conditioning as well as judgement on performance. “Yeah, we will change things,” added Postecoglou. “Obviously, because of the quick turnaround with another game on the 28th and some of it because of the performance. We do have a strong squad. We don’t have a lot on injuries at the moment – knock on wood, which is great – and we have players, good players, working hard in training that deserve an opportunity and they’ll get one."