IF Celtic manager Neil Lennon felt under pressure after the derby day defeat a few weeks ago, then I think it’s safe to say that it’s gone up a few notches since then.
For most other teams, a run of three games without a win would be seen as disappointing, for the Bhoys it’s a calamity of epic proportions. Celtic supporters are not well-known for their sense of perspective.
During those three games there have been eight goals conceded and that in truth is where the majority of the problems lie for this team.
The strikers have hardly been a model of consistency during this period, of course, but when you’re not scoring goals then the next best thing is to at least keep it tight at the back and quite simply that is not happening at this moment in time.
In their Europa League opener against Serie A high-flyers AC Milan, there was a noticeable improvement from the Sevco display but only when Neil Lennon made the change from a back three to a back four.
Having looked clueless in the first period, and falling 2-0 behind to the Italians, the change brought about a more dynamic showing, which almost saw them get something from the game.
After Elyounnoussi’s headed goal reduced the deficit, the Hoops pushed hard for the equaliser and looked the team most likely to score the next goal.
When you’re down and in need of a bit of luck, however, the chances don’t seem to fall right and it was no surprise to see a late sucker punch from Milan kill the game off.
It was a disappointing ending to the tie but there were definitely positive signs, particularly from the second half performance.
Against Aberdeen in their next game, Celtic came within around 90 seconds of completing a magnificent turnaround which, if they had managed to achieve it, would have put a completely different complexion on the club’s current malaise.
It was expected that Neil Lennon would start with the same formation at Pittodrie as the one that ended the game against Milan and so it proved.
For the most part, however, the play going forward was still pedestrian and individual mistakes at the back still very much in evidence. One of those led to the penalty from which the Dons took a half-time lead.
The errors which led to Aberdeen’s first two goals were cancelled out by excellent strikes from McGregor and Griffiths, and Christie’s penalty put the Celts’ noses in front.
A lack of composure and jangling nerves around the box led to the concession of yet another Aberdeen penalty in the dying minutes, however, changing the narrative from heroic comeback to yet another disappointment.
Scott Brown started on the bench at Pittodrie after two hard games against Sevco and AC Milan, and it would appear that the club captain is potentially going to be used sparingly this season and increasingly as an impact sub. I think this may be the best way to get the maximum from Broony as he is no longer going to be able to start and dictate every match in the way he used to.
Nevertheless, he does seem to able to re-energise the troops when entering the fray from the bench.
Under-fire goalkeeper Vasilias Barkas also missed the trip to Aberdeen due to a back injury, and without knowing the extent of the damage, it may just have come at an opportune time.
The Greek international was replaced by Scott Bain and the question now is whether or not Bain can cement his place in the team. He didn’t do a lot wrong at Pittodrie, but then again he didn’t really do anything outstanding either.
In the race for the title, Celtic, if they win their game in hand, will only be three points behind Sevco.
The Ibrox men are playing as well as they possibly can and have not had a blip yet this campaign, whereas Celtic are in the middle of a damaging slump but are still within touching distance.
No team can go through an entire season without a dip in form, though, so when the inevitable happens for Gerrard’s team, let’s see how they handle it.
They have also managed to steer clear of any Covid-19 related absences, more through luck than anything else, but this too is bound to come to their door at some point.
Celtic have been over this course and distance many times; they are not nine-in-a-row champions and on the brink of a quadruple treble for no reason. They have gone through bad spells before and managed to successfully navigate their way out of them. I have no reason to believe that this will be any different.
Odsonne Edouard is now available after recovering from Covid-19 , but it is unrealistic to believe that he will simply shrug off the effects of the virus and ride in on his white horse to save the day. He has been below par for most of the season in truth and we will just have to wait and see how he performs on his return from his enforced absence.
Shane Duffy currently presents something of a problem for Neil Lennon.
When Christopher Jullien returns from injury he will have to make a decision on whether to revert to a back three to accommodate all three defenders or leave one of them out.
On current form that would have to be Duffy whose dream move is turning decidedly nightmarish.
It is hard to believe that the same Celtic fans who were singing the Derryman’s praises not so long ago are now slaughtering him on social media.
Currently, Lennon’s most reliable central defender, Kristoffer Ajer, is one of very few players who can be relatively satisfied with their own form during this difficult period for the Celts. He was heavily linked with a move to AC Milan in the summer and in the Europa League tie against the Italians last Thursday he gave them plenty of reasons to reignite that interest.
If he was auditioning for the Italian giants, and his display certainly gave that impression, then he may just be asked back for a second reading.
There’s zero likelihood of the big Norwegian losing his place in the Celtic starting 11 at the moment, however, and that might just leave Duffy looking nervously over his shoulder for the return of Jullien.