Neil Lennon planning to reshape Celtic team says Bobby Petta

Neil Lennon celebrates clinching the treble treble, but next season he is likely to alter the focus of Celtic's play. Picture: Getty.
Neil Lennon celebrates clinching the treble treble, but next season he is likely to alter the focus of Celtic's play. Picture: Getty.
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It might now seem relatively small fry that, almost two decades ago, Bobby Petta played in a single treble winning Celtic side. The Dutchman, though, believes that the manner in which Martin O’Neill achieved that clean sweep of 2000-01 will have an influence in how Neil Lennon sets about building on the club’s current unprecedented treble treble next season – when the prized bounty will be a ninth straight title.

The former winger backs the rapid appointment of his former team-mate as permanent successor to Brendan Rodgers, Lennon offered the job in the shower room at Hampden following the clinching of the club’s ninth straight domestic honour with their Scottish Cup triumph over Hearts last Saturday.

The 44-year-old considers that Lennon, successful in his four-year first spell from 2010, has been harshly judged by a support ambivalent to his elevation since he could not follow his own approach and simply had to stick to the Rodgers template for the closing months of the season.

Lennon has said he intends to make use of two central strikers and less use of his goalkeeper as a sweeper in the team that he will shape with additions over the summer. Essentially, he will look to be direct in building attacking momentum – a key element in O’Neill’s Celtic sides. A mentor for Lennon, Petta sees plenty of the O’Neill identikit in Lennon’s management style. That is no bad thing, he feels, in believing Celtic need an approach that deviates from the Rodgers orthodoxy that was notably becoming less effective in the closing year of his time at Celtic .

“I expect Neil’s team to move the ball forward a bit quicker next season,” Petta said. “For the first 18 months under Brendan Rodgers, the team was finally playing with a style the people loved and they were cutting through opponents like a knife through butter. But then that became a bit predictable and the other teams worked out how Celtic were going to play and they made it harder for them. They would sit off the play and, as a result, there was too much short passing sideways and back.

“I can understand why Neil might stick with that style in European ties but, in domestic games, there’s not the same need for goalkeepers to be trying to build the play from the final third of the pitch. Look at last season’s Champions League [qualifying] tie against AEK Athens at Parkhead. We went 1-0 up early on but then we couldn’t get out of our own half when we should have been moving the ball quicker and occasionally going long.

“I’ve spoken to Lenny and that’s what he wants to do but he needs the right personnel.You need a target man who’s strong and has a big presence.

“We used to play it up to Chris Sutton but Odsonne Edouard, although he’s a very good striker, isn’t that type. Celtic need a focal point.”