All Celtic can really do after their disappointing 2-0 defeat to Borussia Monchengladbach last night is consider how they get better.
Brendan Rodgers spoke about it post-match, admitting that Gladbach were the better team and his side had to learn how to cope better in games like that.
It’s hard to disagree with him. The Germans were underrated coming into the game – and with good reason too. They may have finished fourth in Bundesliga last season, but they’re ninth this term and went into last night’s match off the back of just two wins in eight games. Celtic fans only got more confident with news that four key players were ruled out of the game at the start of the week.
Celtic will struggle to play as bad at home again this season, while Kolo Toure definitely won’t make mistakes like that again. Rodgers will no doubt bemoan the lack of big performers on the night, with only Craig Gordon, Scott Brown and Patrick Roberts playing to near their best.
But what’s the biggest takeaway from Celtic’s 2-0 loss to Gladbach?
Rodgers needs a quality ball-playing midfield player. And Brown isn’t that.
The reason we say that is Rodgers took an interesting approach to getting his team back into last night’s game. They may have been drawing 0-0 at half-time, but the Germans had dominated the first half, successfully managing to make Celtic go backwards more often than forwards. So his side needed a change, and instead of switching personnel, he switched the set-up.
It was clear from the first passage of Hoops play that Kieran Tierney and Mikael Lustig had been told to push up into wing back positions, with Toure and Erik Sviatchenko splitting wide in defence and Brown dropping into where they would normally be at centre back. But for all that Brown brings to Celtic, it’s not precise and incisive passing. He may be able to get away with it in Scotland, but off-point passes are intercepted in Europe. That was clear last night.
And it’s not a criticism of Brown. Like we’ve said, he was one of Rodgers’ best players last night. He’s all about imposing himself physically on opponents and didn’t allow the Germans much time or space in midfield. But Celtic want to dominate the ball in home games and that’s where what he does with it is more important than without it.
So it makes you think how much better an already impressive Celtic team could be had Rodgers been able to sign the deep-lying playmaking midfielder he wanted before the end of the summer transfer window.
A to Z
He’s got the players to make the difference in defence and attack. He’s got a quality goalkeeper to make big saves in big games. But last night’s match – when Celtic are faced with a compact German team with a clear plan for getting the ball back – highlighted his lack of an A to Z passer. Brown isn’t capable of playing through the lines when so deep in the pitch. Nir Bitton isn’t and there are no other midfielders in the Celtic squad who have shown they can do it either. Think about the way Xabi Alonso or Michael Carrick have made careers out of turning defence into attack with one pass – that’s the kind of player Rodgers needs.
And we can understand why he was unable to get that player in the summer. It just so happens that players who can offer that cost more than Celtic are probably willing to pay.
Rodgers has always said that Celtic is a work in progress and fans might not see his team until next season or the one after. But a big part of getting there will be securing a quality midfielder who can offer them what Brown couldn’t last night.
That’s why Celtic’s lack of a quarterback player is the most interesting thing to take away from their Gladbach defeat.