Craig Fowler gives his take on Celtic’s comfortable Friday night victory over Hamilton Accies.
Hamilton’s system didn’t match up
In fairness, Accies may have been thrown off their gameplan when they had a look at how Celtic lined-up. Brendan Rodgers opted for a 3-4-3 system, which didn’t match up all that well with the 3-5-2 of Accies. Sure, the hosts could - and, in hindsight, should - have changed things sooner, but it’s a formation that’s worked very well for them so far this season.
It quickly became evident that Accies had two players always ahead of the play. Usually teams will have just one when facing Celtic, and with good reason. You need all the help you can get in defence. It would be interesting to see whether a team with more firepower would have caused problems, with two strikers going against three centre-backs, but Steven Boyd and a returning-from-injury Rakish Bingham were never likely to create much magic on their own.
Furthermore, the two were often caught betwixt and between as to who they should be covering or closing down. As a result, Celtic’s back three were able to step up any time they liked, as long as they moved play quickly between them before doing so.
At the other end, the front three of Celtic were often able to isolate the three Hamilton centre-backs, and there was only going to be one winner in that regard.
The look on Beuzelin’s face summed it all up
With Celtic 2-0 up shortly after the half-hour mark, the BT Sport director switched to a shot of Martin Canning and assistant Guillaume Beuzelin discussing their options. Beuzelin was holding a clipboard with a sheet of paper illustrating the outlines of Hamilton’s team while Canning spoke. The look on the ex-Hibs’ midfielder’s face was a picture. It was a mixture of resignation and exasperation. It seemed to say, “what does it matter, they’re going to kill us anyway”.
Yes, as mentioned, Accies could have changed things up earlier and may have been in the game longer if Celtic stuck with their preferred 4-2-3-1. However, it likely wouldn’t have made much difference in the end. With debutants the calibre of Patrick Roberts and Odsonne Edouard, Hamilton would have been facing certain doom regardless.
Roberts is even better than a new signing
With a new signing you have to worry about them fitting into the team’s style of play and the dressing room itself. With Patrick Roberts, it’s already assured his transition into the Celtic team is going to be easy, and so it proved at New Douglas Park.
Watching the playmaker continually looking to find Scott Sinclair running into space beyond the Hamilton defence, you’d never have known the two hadn’t played a game with each other since late May. Once he gets his match sharpness back, there’s no telling what he could achieve in green and white hoops this season.
Griffiths and Dembele have some real competition
It’s safe to say Odsonne Edouard is an improvement on Tom Rogic or James Forrest operating as the No.9. You could even go as far as to say he’s an upgrade on Nadir Ciftci. The young striker was dropped right into the deep end after completing his move from PSG last week, but he could scarcely have looked more at home in his new surroundings.
Two particular passages of play demonstrated his ability. The first was the build up to the second goal. Quickly changing direction, he used Xavier Tomas’ momentum against him to steal a march on the Hamilton defender and take a ball from Jozo Simunovic in stride. Using his strength he brushed off Tomas’ attentions, and even though his run was eventually halted by a sliding tackle by Scott McMann, it caused enough mayhem to allow Scott Sinclair to dispatch the loose ball into the net.
Then, midway through the second half, he got himself on the scoresheet with a terrifically well-worked goal. Dropping deep to pick up the ball, he outmuscled Greg Docherty - no easy feat - before charging forward. Using his quick feet, he dribbled past the covering Darian MacKinnon before initiating his one-two with Roberts. Accelerating just a little to take himself beyond the retreating McMann, he was able to run on to the return pass in stride. While he may have got lucky with the finish, as Woods should have saved it, he deserves some credit for keeping his composure and striking his effort low.
Gordon is having issues with his concentration
As The SPFL Radar pointed out on Twitter at the conclusion of the game, Celtic have conceded three league goals this season and Craig Gordon has been, at least partly, at fault for all of them.
It’s an unusual and worrying trend for a goalkeeper who, to this writer’s mind, has never had as many mistakes in such a short period across his entire career, especially if you include both goals England scored in the World Cup qualifier back in June. Sure, he occasionally tries to decapitate opposing strikers, but he’s typically a safe pair of hands.
Last season the arrival of Dorus de Vries pushed Gordon to recapture his 2014/15 form, where he made an almost fairytale return from serious injury to be named Writer’s Player of the Year. But while De Vries is still at the club, he’s no longer a viable threat to the No.1 spot, and Gordon’s standards have slipped.
That in itself isn’t a problem necessarily domestically - they’ll still win the title if he chucks one in every week - but if such poor form translates on to the continent then Celtic’s hopes of competing in their group of death will become even more remote.