How a mid-season change has made Celtic a more fearful opponent
Motherwell were trailing Celtic 3-0 with just under 30 minutes of the game remaining at Fir Park. Only for the home team to look over to the side and see Jota and Matt O’Riley readying themselves for a substitute appearance.
With players returning from injury, coming back from international duty and January signings adapting quickly to the rigours of the Scottish game, Ange Postecoglou has a highly-skilled, versatile and, let’s face it, frightening squad to choose from.
After Wednesday’s 3-0 demolition of rivals Rangers to go top of the cinch Premiership, he was able to tweak his team and leave Josip Juranovic, Jota, Matt O’Riley on the bench for the trip to Fir Park.
No matter, four goals were scored in a resounding win which also saw James Forrest and Nir Bitton make half-time appearances as Reo Hatate and Liel Abada were given a rest with a fixture against Aberdeen at Pittodrie on the horizon in midweek.
It should also be noted David Turnbull and Kyogo Furuhashi are still to return, while Christopher Jullien wasn’t in the squad.
Postecoglou now has an abundance of choice, allowing him to make changes during matches, rotate his squad and rest players. This is an important development for Celtic due to the intensity in which they play with.
In wins against both Hearts and Rangers in recent weeks, the pace at which they play and pressure they put on opponents dropped after the interval.
However, a key change which could have a hugely positive impact for Celtic and their energy levels during the remainder of the season was the resolution to increase the number of substitutes allowed in Premiership games to five.
Seventy-five per cent of top-flight clubs backed the increase with teams allowed to name up to nine players on the bench.
During last season, when Covid19 saw games played behind closed doors, clubs were allowed to make five changes in games. It returned to three at the start of the campaign until the mid-season resolution, which was to support player welfare and assist with the congested fixture schedule.
Such is the intensity Celtic play at, having an extra two subs, with the options available to Postecoglou, is a huge boost and should see Celtic maintain those levels for longer as they battle Rangers for the Premiership title.
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