John Kennedy identifies Celtic summer transfer market requirement to address fatal flaw

It isn’t difficult to identify where it has gone wrong for Celtic this season.

The injury absence of the physically imposing Christopher Jullien has been a factor in Celtic's setpiece shortcomings. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)
The injury absence of the physically imposing Christopher Jullien has been a factor in Celtic's setpiece shortcomings. (Photo by Alan Harvey / SNS Group)

The goal they conceded last time out in the 1-1 draw in Aberdeen marked the 19th this season to result from a set-piece. Their vulnerability in this area has been especially exploited by Rangers. Ahead of this weekend’s final derby meeting between the pair, four of the six goals they have lost against rivals who crushed them in the title race were given up in such fashion.

It remains to be seen whether caretaker John Kennedy has any role in the set-up constructed around expected incoming new manager Eddie Howe. If the 37-year-old does – whether as a coach or in the director of football position with which he has been linked – there is one guarantee. He will impress that, across the extensive recruitment programme required, there is a necessity to go big to get back to pre-eminent status in Scotland. Returning the towering Christopher Jullien to the backline is also crucial; the Frenchman having missed the majority of the season and not expected to be fit again until September following knee ligament damage sustained in December.

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“We've changed the dynamic of how we set up [at set-pieces] and weren’t happy with the goal at Aberdeen,” he said. “It’s been something we have been trying to address because we've conceded too many in those moments. We have to keep working at that and doing the best we can. We have looked at things across the board in a study in-house and teams who deal with set play situations often have a lot of physicality and good height in the team, a lot of players who are able to handle the aerial side of it.

"We're not a big side, and it's certainly something going forward in the profile of the squad that you have to have an element of physicality because set plays are an important part of the game. We've not been good enough this season and the challenge we have in the squad is we aren't the biggest, most physical team and the answer to that is to do our jobs better and what we have tried to do is control games more and give less set plays away, which puts us under that threat. We've just got to continue to work through it, that's all you can do at this time. On that physical presence, Jullien is huge. It gives you an extra bit of confidence in those situations, someone you know can handle those situations better. So we have missed those type of players, but again, it’s something you have to deal with. It hasn’t all been down to physicality, there have been lapses in concentration, which we have top be better at.

“There are going to be a number of changes. Peter [Lawwell] has been here a long time, Scott [Brown] has been here a long time. These are figures who have been very stable in terms of being in and around the club. So there are big changes in big positions. It’s unfortunate that there’s several of them at the same time. But that’s something you have to handle, you can’t shy away from it. You have to make sure you get the next decisions right.”

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