Craig Fowler gives his take after Celtic are outclassed by German champions Bayern Munich in the Champions League group stage.
In these matches, nobody can shirk their defensive responsibilities
Scott Sinclair does some terrific things for Celtic’s attack, but on nights such as this one it can’t be his only focus. The visitors were always going to be under severe pressure throughout the 90 minutes, and the only way to survive that is to have everyone switched on defensively. Don’t give Bayern Munich an inch, whether it’s 50 or five yards from goal.
On far too many occasions, Sinclair allowed right-back Joshua Kimmich time and space to deliver into the Celtic penalty box. There were warnings when, in the space of a minute, the 22-year-old twice found Robert Lewandowski running in behind the defence, but Sinclair didn’t heed this. The opening goal saw Kimmich allowed to cross not once but twice into the Celtic box. The second time he found Lewandowski again, and when the Polish striker’s header could only be parried by Craig Gordon, Thomas Muller was on hand to break Celtic’s resistance within 17 minutes.
Celtic’s centre-back woes continue to hurt them
Christian Gamboa suffered through an awful first half in the Allianz Arena. Time and again he was turned inside-out by Kingsley Coman on the wing, unable to keep pace with the Frenchman or even keep his attacker in front of him. This played a major part in the second goal, as Coman was able to beat Gamboa down the outside and cross for Kimmich (who ran into the box unmarked by Sinclair) to head Bayern into a two-goal lead.
It was a remainder of Celtic’s injury problems at centre-back and the failure to strengthen during the transfer window. Had there been another fit stopper beside Dedryck Boyata then Mikael Lustig would have been out at right-back. Though he would have found it a tough assignment against the elusive Coman, his experience for Celtic on the Champions League stage would have given him a better chance of succeeding than his team-mate from Costa Rica.
Celtic’s passing got them into trouble
Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Brendan Rodgers said after the game that he was unhappy with the way in which Celtic moved the ball in the first half, often choosing to go deep instead of passing it short and looking to build from the back.
There’s two ways of looking at this. Celtic didn’t have much of anything going forward in the opening period, and they certainly improved on that front after the break, going close to scoring on more than one occasion. At the same time, Bayern, though they scored one fewer goal in the second period, created more opportunities as they continuously latched on to sloppy passes and caught their opponents dawdling in possession.
Such an instance led to the third goal, with Craig Gordon playing an ill-advised and poorly executed pass to Scott Brown, which would eventually result in the corner from which Matt Hummels headed the hosts into a 3-0 advantage.
Dembele may be a better option than Griffiths in these games
The Frenchman is better at holding the ball up, of that there is no doubt. Griffiths has improved with his back to goal tremendously over the past couple of years, but he just doesn’t have the physical qualities that someone like Dembele has. Furthermore, his attacking instincts encourage him to look for the space in behind, something which saw him fail to get on the same wavelength as his team-mates, who tried to play the ball into the striker’s feet instead of sending it over the top.
It’s hard to read too much into it, seeing as it was a different game by the time Dembele entered the fray, what with Celtic committing more players forward and Bayern letting their focus drop every so sightly, but there did appear to be more of a focal point in attack when the 21-year-old replaced his more experienced team-mate.
Rodgers will look to work on his side’s mental strength
Regardless of whether it was the right way to play, Rodgers expressed his displeasure after the match with the manner in which his players failed to implement their preferred passing gameplan in the first 45 minutes. As they tend to do in Champions League games, especially this season, Celtic looked jittery on the football. This was evident in the play of Kieran Tierney in the opening half, as the usually unflappable left-back was prone to punting the ball long.
It wasn’t quite as bad as the PSG defeat, while they undoubtedly got better in possession as the Anderlecht game went along, so there is definitely improvement there. But there is still someway to go where Rodgers’ players are finally at the stage where they truly believe they can pass with the best of them at the highest level.