I usually struggle with penning negative articles. As a relatively positive person it can be hard focusing on the downside of someone, particularly if that person comes across as a top drawer human being.
In my eyes Ronny Deila is a good man. Hard working, has a positive outlook and strives to bring the best out of others. As a person it’s hard to find fault with Ronny as he ticks most of the boxes I like to see in a person.
Ronny is also the manager of Celtic. After eighteen months in charge and putting in place his own style of play and his own players it’s now fair enough to make an assessment based on his work to date.
In my view it’s just not good enough.
Domestically Ronny is the most fortunate person ever to have managed Celtic. The demise of Rangers left Ronny with no serious contender for the league title due to the enormous budgetary advantage he has over all other top tier clubs. Aberdeen, Hearts and co deal primarily deal on free transfers while Ronny has the luxury of being the only manager who can spend in the region of £2m on players. His player wage budget also completely dwarves all other clubs making the SPFL in financial terms one of, if not thee, most one-sided leagues in Europe.
With the advantage Ronny has domestically any football manager (OK, perhaps not Ally McCoist) should be able to win the league title quite comfortably.
The true test of Ronny’s abilities as a manager must be primarily judged in my view on the European stage. Where to begin…
I gave Ronny the benefit of the doubt last year even after being destroyed by a poor Legia team. He was just in and was trying to rebuild a team that played ‘his style of play’ which going by his comments would be significantly different to anything we’d seen in years at Celtic. It would be high pressing, high tempo, quick passing, aggressive, all out attacking, rip roaring, sweating with flair fitba. Yeah I was excited.
We got to New Year and then really kicked on for a few months. The defence looked settled, Bitton was impressing and the purchase of Armstrong and Mackay-Steven from Dundee United gave us added energy and pace. We looked a decent team and gave Inter a good battle over two legs. With the exception of his continual use of Guidetti who had made it clear his future lay elsewhere, the signs generally appeared positive as we prepared for this season.
As expected Denayer returned to Man City and in return we purchased another young Belgian centre half in the form of Dedryck Boyata. We also added Saidy Janko from Man Utd and cashed in Adam Matthews cheaply for £2m to Sunderland. Zaluska was let go and he was replaced by Logan Bailly. Common sense told us all that Van Dijk was going after our involvement had ended in the Champions League qualifiers and we brought in relatively lately Nadir Ciftci from Dundee United. A player who was pretty certain to suffer a domestic ban after biting an opponent in his last Dundee derby!
We ended the season on a positive but again from a decent position failed to strengthen the team. Same old, same old.
Irrespective of all that, Deila was confident he had the players to qualify for the Champions League and telling everyone his team would progress to the next stage in their development…
We were embarrassed by Malmo in the Champions League second leg after having the game in our hands at Celtic Park. 2-0 up and cruising is the time you expect the manager to use tactical nous and keep it nice and tight. Bring them up the park and hit their dreadful defence on the break…nope….harem scarem tactics as we chase a third goal allowing them to make it 2-1 on the break…..Yes, on the break!
The game in Sweden was embarrassing. Yet again our inability to defend basic set pieces was exploited as they scored two goals and won easily on the night. A team with a budget a lot less than ours completely outplayed us.
Just as you thought it couldn’t get any worse along comes the Europa League.
6 games played, 3 draws, 3 losses and 0 wins. Losing easily home and away to Molde (if they’d scored 5 goals in Norway it would have given their complete domination justice) a team again costing a fraction of Celtic’s. Once more Ronny trots out the same tiresome lines about the team “learning from these games” but for me that’s the issue….Ronny and HIS team don’t learn….they make the same mistakes time after time. Our defence is the most wide open since the days of the early 1990’s (a cold shiver runs down the spine of fans of a certain vintage!) and Ronny and his coaching staff do not know how to organise a defence.
12 goals conceded in six Europa League games and four against Malmo. It’s beyond shambolic, it’s amateurish.
I made my view clear during our European debacle that Ronny could not be trusted to lead Celtic into Europe next season. Pumped by Legia, given the most incredible get out of jail card and then beaten by Maribor. Pumped by Malmo and then pumped by Molde. These aren’t top European teams with massive budgets. These are second tier teams who would kill for our playing budget and we are being outclassed by them.
I stood by the view the Celtic board should plan for next season by bringing an experienced coach in at the end of this season and allow Ronny to see out the remainder of the domestic campaign and bring home the league. After Saturday’s thumping by Motherwell….don’t let the scoreline fool you…..I now think it’s best for all concerned that we allow a new manager this January transfer window and the next to a) secure the league (I’m unfortunately serous here) and b) give the new person as much of an opportunity to plan ahead for next seasons European campaign with the players he wants.
Losing to Motherwell at Celtic Park on Saturday is something that’s happened to us many times through the years. The far bigger issue was the manner of defeat. We were outfought, outplayed and outcoached by a Mark McGhee Motherwell team who read our all too familiar tactics like a book.
We are slow in possession allowing opponents to quickly regroup. Our defence plays high and opposition teams know you hit defensive channels to areas vacated by our full backs as we leave two centre backs on their own and can be easily exploited…just as St Johnstone did the week before with Craig Gordon thankfully saving our first half skins. If it wasn’t for poor finishing and Craig Gordon’s saves (again) Motherwell could and should have scored FIVE goals at Celtic Park. The result may have been a 2-1 loss that should not fool anyone. We were torn apart by a team made up Scott McDonald and some other players from the lower leagues of English football who would get nowhere near the Celtic team….although watching on Saturday you’d never for one second believe that.
There’s also the dreaded Deila curse of signing players then playing them out of position. Stuart Armstrong and Scott Allan, both players who caught the manager’s eye playing central/attacking midfield are infuriatingly played out wide on the left. I genuinely scratch my head and struggle to think of a reason for this. It’s like John Barnes playing Stan Petrov at right back or Tony Mowbray playing Scott Brown at full back….you sit and think why on earth are you doing this? If you want to play someone out wide left then why not purchase a player who actually plays well in that position? It’s the Ronny Deila square pegs in round holes routine. Rather than play a system that suits the players purchased, he instead takes the option of making life difficult for the players and himself by determining the system must come first before pragmatism and plain old good management.
You then look at our style of play and I use the word style very loosely. Ronny promised us high energy. He promised us a team with incredible fitness levels. He promised us quick passing. He promised us attacking fitba. Bar a 2-3 month period in early 2015 it’s been slow and ponderous rubbish. Yes, we get short fleeting glimpses like the first half v Malmo but before you know it’s gone after we concede another dreadfully easy goal knocking the stuffing out of the team. Even games we have won recently at Ross County, St Johnstone and others those opponents have had gilt edged chances to punish us with only poor finishing from domestic opponents stopping us having far less points than we currently have.
The football we are witnessing is desperate most of the time with one striker getting little support as our back two pass to our two central midfielders who pass to one of our full backs before receiving a return ball and recycling it to the centre halves. It’s boring rubbish and nothing like the wonderful vision Ronny talks of.
He’s like a football managerial equivalent of Del Boy Trotter as he tells us the two bob watch we are paying to look at is a top of the range Rolex.
I’ve seen enough of Ronny to see far too many similarities between him and the afore-mentioned Barnes and Mowbray to know where this is going. We may (bloody should) win a few more games on the bounce due to the enormous financial gulf between our squad and our opponent’s relative pittance. The reality for me is any run of victories will only paper over a multitude of cracks.
If a manager cannot organise a team to do basic defending after 18 months and doesn’t learn any lessons there’s little hope this will ever change. If a manager plays one in attack at home in the SPFL what hope he will ever learn? If a manager buys players and moves them out of position what hope he will ever learn? If a manager needs two players to play central midfield and not one of them can provide cover as defensive mid what hope he will ever learn? If a manager is continuously turned over in Europe by teams with a fraction of a budget what hope he will ever learn?
In my view Ronny cannot be trusted with spending funds in January and any transfer budget should be set aside for a new experienced manager to build his own team over the next months and then supplement it during the summer for (ideally) another crack at qualifying for the Champions League. The best part of somewhere between £40-50m in revenue, the vast majority of which is clear profit, has been lost to Celtic due to failure to quality for the big boys table in European football. The risk based on what Ronny’s done in Europe to date is far too high and cannot continue. The Celtic board should get in place a manager who can organise a team in Europe but also play attacking football domestically. Our budget may not be massive in European terms but it shites all over Malmo, Molde, Maribor and others and is a challenge a large number of suitably qualified managers would kick down the door to work for Celtic.
It’s time for Peter Lawwell and the Celtic board to stop the penny pinching and do the right thing for Celtic. With crowds dwindling due to the dire football on display it needs the board to display leadership and source Europe or further afield for the best qualified manager and allow him to manage the club the best way he sees fit.
Failure to do so should not just see the end of Ronny – but also the end of Lawwell and those steering the club who are ultimately responsible for the appalling onfield displays and dwindling revenues we are witnessing.