RESULTS-WISE it has been another good week for Celtic, which resulted in them topping the league table for a short time.
Given that they had been as many as nine points behind Sevco a few weeks ago, this has been some turnaround.
Steven Gerrard’s team have now reclaimed top spot but only by a single point, and with a game in hand, the Hoops have taken a slender advantage in the championship race.
Performances, however, have left a lot to be desired and whilst grinding out wins while not playing particularly well is a desirable trait for any team with title aspirations, there will definitely come a time when points will be dropped if standards don’t improve.
Celtic’s last two wins came by the narrowest of margins and it’s easy to see where the problems lie.
The defence is simply giving away too many chances to the opposition and have been guilty of conceding some very preventable goals. They have allowed their opponents to score the first goal in each of their last two games and won’t always be able to rely on the attackers bailing them out.
I think most Celtic fans would have been happy when Neil Lennon reverted to a back three to accommodate the three very talented centre backs currently at his disposal, as it allows the rest of the team a lot more freedom going forward.
We have seen the fruits of that already, with the team in free-scoring form. However, it does leave gaps at the back and opposing forwards have been having a field day.
I think it’s fair to say that Jullien, Ajer and new Bhoy Duffy are still getting to know each other and will take time to gel. In addition, Jullien hasn’t been fit enough to start the last two games so that doesn’t help.
When all three are fully fit and used to each other’s game, we will see a massive improvement, however with the 3-5-2 formation, as well as seeing sweeping, entertaining football going forward, we will have to accept that there will be weaknesses at the back.
This puts an awful lot of pressure on our new Greek goalkeeper, Vasilias Barkas, and if I’m being honest, he hasn’t been convincing in any game so far.
He appears to be a decent stopper but shots from distance don’t seem to stick with him and very often bounce back into the danger zone. His handling generally has also been suspect.
Again, he’s a recent addition and playing in a new country and a new league, so I think a certain amount of leeway must be given before we can judge the big man.
In recent matches, Lennon’s team selection has been called into question and whilst Lenny has forgotten more about football than the vast majority of us will ever know, that hasn’t stopped the keyboard Klopps and online Ancelottis querying every change in the line-up.
There are obviously things going on in the background concerning certain players which we are not privy to, but so far there has been little or no continuity, and a feeling that some players are undroppable no matter how poorly they are performing.
Given what Lenny has achieved for Celtic in the dugout, I am of a mind to let him get on with it, however, and remain convinced he will soon find the right balance.
Over the last week the Hoops needed two wins to go top of the league and put a bit of pressure back on Sevco and despite the narrow nature of wins away to St Mirren and at home to Livingston, they managed to do just that.
At St Mirren Park last Wednesday, the home team took an early lead, but Celtic didn’t panic and patiently played their way back into the game, eventually claiming a 2-1 win.
It could have been a lot more comfortable had Odsonne Edouard found the net with his second half spot-kick, but it wasn’t to be and the Bhoys were forced to play out a nervy ending to the game.
Having just come back from injury, Edouard has not looked his usual self and it was no real surprise that he was left out completely for Saturday’s game against Livingston.
In Albian Ajeti, however, Lennon has a more than adequate replacement and the Swiss striker’s expert finish in the second half proved to be the decisive goal in a high-scoring encounter.
Ajeti has now scored four times in five appearances, three of those as sub, and he gives the impression that he’s loving his time at Celtic Park so far.
His movement and pace are a nightmare for defenders and for me he has a touch of the Jorge Cadetes about him in the way that he makes quick, darting runs, latches onto through balls and whips them into the back of the net before the opposition can set themselves.
He hasn’t played with Edouard as much as we would like but if these two get on the pitch together for a sustained spell, there could be fireworks.
Ajeti’s strike created a two-goal cushion on Saturday, but defensive lapses were again evident and Livi’s second of the day made for another uneasy finale to the match, but the three points were eventually secured and with it, top spot in the league table.
Over at Ibrox, they haven’t been asked any serious questions so far this season and having witnessed Celtic claw back a nine-point gap they would have been feeling the pressure for the first time.
A trip to high-flying Hibs provided them with the opportunity to show their mettle and to be frank, they blew it.
Jack Ross’s men have been playing well but given Sevco had not conceded a single league goal this campaign, this was a test for them too.
The visitors buckled under the pressure of losing top spot in the league, however, and conceded twice in a 2-2 draw.
They are back on top by a single point but Celtic will have that game in hand up the cuff and as long as they eliminate the dodgy stuff at the back it shouldn’t be too long before the league table starts to take on a more familiar look. Tickety-Bhoy!