Celtic and Brendan Rodgers picked up exactly where they left off at the weekend, by winning games of football and by sitting atop the Scottish Premiership table.
The last time Rodgers took charge of a competitive game for Celtic was almost four and a half years ago on the 24th of February 2019.
The result that day – a 4-1 win over Motherwell at Celtic Park in the league – was almost matched at the weekend but for a poorly conceded late goal, but overall he’ll be happy at how Flag Day unfolded against Ross County.
Winning games of football is the name of the game, and Rodgers knows only too well that continuing to do so gives him his best chance of winning over any remaining doubters amongst the Celtic support.
There’s no doubt this Celtic side can and will play better under his stewardship but despite some rustiness in places the evidence of his tactical awareness was on show once again on Saturday.
On his opening press conference after his return to Celtic Park this summer he stated that he was a better manager than the one who first joined Celtic seven years ago.
Since then he’s pitted his wits in the English Premier League against the likes of Pep Guardiola, Jurgen Klopp, Carlo Ancelotti and Jose Mourinho to name but a few.
He also guided Leicester City to two 5th placed finishes, their first ever FA Cup, and a Community Shield during his spell at the King Power Stadium.
At 50 years of age he’s now a notably more experienced manager than the man who left Glasgow in 2019 and it’s Celtic who’ll now benefit from that increased football knowledge.
KYOGO THE CREATOR
Across our four pre-season friendlies we’ve seen subtle tweaks to the system and formation favoured by predecessor Ange Postecoglou but one notable ploy was played out to serious effect on Saturday, and it’s one which could give Celtic a lot of joy in the season ahead.
Kyogo Furuhashi, last season’s undisputed Player of The Year is a player who – until now – has rarely ventured too far from the oppositions penalty area.
And with good reason.
As he displayed with 54 goals in his first two seasons in Scotland, the Japanese hitman is simply lethal in and around the box.
However, on several occasion against Ross County we witnessed Celtic’s No.8 dropping to a distance of around 35 yards from goal in which to receive a pass from his team-mates before then turning provider with a series of intelligent passes.
Notably he was still in a very central position when doing so (all good strikers live between the width of the goalposts after all!) but such is his vision he was able to create high percentage chances in the blink of an eye.
In the 37th minute, Man of The Match David Turnbull should really have made it 3-0 after a perfect ball was laid into his path by Kyogo, though he of course made up for this around 5 minutes later.
However Kyogo would go on to achieve the assist his play thoroughly deserved on the 73rd minute.
On that occasion he dropped short and took a Cameron Carter-Vickers pass on the half turn before expertly playing a cultured first time ball “round the corner” to the onrushing Matt O’Riley.
The Danish under 21 star made no mistake with his right foot and smashed the ball high into the net.
Had we seen this move from Furuhashi just once or twice in the game it could be deemed coincidence, but it’s on display several times and is clearly a directive from his new manager.
And for anyone worried that this will take away from his goalscoring prowess, he of course got his own obligatory goal midway through the first half.
As we know, he almost always does.
A very promising sign of the type of positive change that Brendan Rodgers can and will bring to a Celtic side looking for new ways to win following last year’s Treble success.
If he can now add 2-3 players of note to his existing squad during the remaining weeks of the transfer window then we may just be on to something.
Listen to the latest episode of The Celtic Exchange Weekly as we discuss Rodgers’ Tactical Teaks, Two Goal Turnbull and Starfelt’s Imminent Exit!
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