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Celtic: What’s going wrong with Neil Lennon’s side?



Celtic’s hopes of qualification from Europa League Group H are all but gone after an embarrassing 4-1 home defeat by Sparta Prague.

But the problems for Neil Lennon run deeper than that, with the manager suggesting there needs to be a change of “culture” among his players.

They have now lost three successive home games for the first time in 30 years and return to Scottish Premiership action on Sunday nine points behind leaders Rangers, albeit with two games in hand.

But where has it gone wrong so far in a season of frustration for the Celtic support?

‘Taken apart & gutless’ – how did Sparta win?

Former Scotland midfielder Michael Stewart: “Celtic were taken apart, which is really quite something. They were dominated for the vast majority of that game. Fair play to them, but Sparta Prague aren’t not even able to play domestically, I’m not even sure they’re able to train at the moment. 

“This is a really concerning result and performance for Celtic. As much as there was some improvement in the last few games, that has just taken Celtic right back to square one and probably even further back.”

Former Celtic goalkeeper Pat Bonner: “The difference between the two teams was that Sparta played as a team. They all looked as though they were there as a united group.”

Former Celtic striker Chris Sutton, speaking on BT Sport: “One of the most gutless displays I’ve ever seen from a Celtic team. A lot of Celtic fans are saying Europe doesn’t matter this year. I’m sorry, it absolutely does. You play for Celtic, you want to compete in Europe. Celtic quite frankly did not compete in any way, shape or form.”

‘Fragile & lack of confidence’ – case for the defence?

Michael Stewart: “Celtic’s problems won’t be solved until they learn how to defend properly. They’re so fragile.”

Pat Bonner: “Celtic aren’t defending from the front properly. I’m taking about a structured defence. You can make a mistake or maybe step out position, but somebody else is there to cover for you. That wasn’t there all over the pitch.”

Former Scotland forward James McFadden: “It’s easy to pick on the defence, but they were beaten man for man all over the pitch by a team that looked right up for the game. Overall, as a team performance, it just wasn’t good enough.”

‘I thought they chucked it’ – are the players to blame?

Michael Stewart: “You look at the squad and, for all the talent, I still think they’re lacking energy and dynamism. Some of the guys you look to put in performances have been doing it for a good while. It just seems as though the fresh blood that has been brought in hasn’t made the impact.”

Pat Bonner: “Why is it that a team that has been so dominant for so long is falling apart like this? The good performances only happen in periods of about 20 minutes. It’s not happening over 90 minutes or even two or three games. I don’t know whether that’s a mentality or a physical thing or is it leadership or the environment.”

James McFadden: “I know we speak about managers and after a few losses people call for them to go. But you look at those players tonight and you don’t see enough of them taking control of the game. If you’re losing a game you’re fighting, having arguments on the pitch, there’s not enough of that.”

Chris Sutton: “What I question is the players’ commitment. There is a player sitting in the stand tonight on his mobile phone. That is totally, totally unacceptable. It is scandalous. Is he committed to the cause? Is he committed to the club? Totally unacceptable.

“If I was the manager, I would fine him two weeks’ wages. A fit Leigh Griffiths is a brilliant option for Neil Lennon – he can’t be bothered to get fit. He sums the Celtic dressing room up at this moment in time. I thought they chucked it tonight.”

‘Under pressure’ – what’s next for Lennon and Celtic?

Michael Stewart: “Domestically, the concern for Celtic is that those [Premiership] games in hand won’t be played until next year. So the likelihood is that Celtic could be even further behind Rangers come Christmas. Psychologically, that could prove pivotal. You look at Celtic’s next fixtures and you don’t see where a run could come from.”

Pat Bonner: “Rangers can take a real grip on the league over the next few weeks. This will be a major blow for Celtic. They need to get a run going somehow. They’re out of Europe now, they have to put all their focus on the league. This is a real challenging time for any manager and he’ll have a few sleepless nights.”

James McFadden: “It’s the first bad run Celtic have been on since Lennon’s returned. Look at the state of the club when he came in. Alright, the team had won trebles before that, but it was still a bit of a mess when he came in. He steadied the ship, managed to see out another treble. He deserves time. However, teams will now start to look at Celtic and think, ‘what can we get from them’?”

Chris Sutton: “Neil Lennon will find himself under pressure. Teams feel they can get at Celtic. This Sparta Prague team absolutely battered them – pathetic. This was a step down from the Rangers game if at all possible. They let themselves down badly. Neil Lennon will know it, but ultimately he carries the can.”