By Craig Turnbull
After the news that Ronny Deila will leave Celtic at the end of the season, PLZ Soccer picks over the bones of where it all went wrong for the Norwegian coach.
Hoops humiliated in Europe
The signs were ominous early on in Deila’s tenure. They were outplayed, outclassed and outfought against Legia Warsaw but, despite a 6-1 aggregate defeat, they were given a stunning Champions League reprieve after the Polish side fielded an ineligible player.
That should have been the spark needed to ignite Celtic’s European campaign but instead they laboured to a 1-1 draw against their next opponents Maribor. The return leg should have been comfortable at Celtic Park – the scene of so many fantastic nights in Europe for the Hoops – but there was to be no euphoria here as they were dumped into the Europa League after a 1-0 defeat.
- Deila to leave Celtic
- Five candidates for Celtic position
- The new Celtic manager
- Lennon: I’d be interested in Celtic return
A venture into the last-32 of the tournament – where they put up an admirable fight against Inter – somewhat made up for the dismal showing in the Champions League qualifiers and gave a renewed sense of optimism in Deila’s second (third) attempt at qualifying for Europe’s Premier competition.
Victories over Stjarnan and Qarabag were expected and delivered, but defeat to Malmo left the Hoops without Champions League football again. They had to settle for Europa League football but in truth it was a miserable affair and they finished bottom of the group without a win.
For whatever reason, the former PFA Payer of the Year failed to capture the imagination of Ronny Deila. He might not be the quickest or the most industrious on the park which Deila demanded of his players but few can match his technical ability, creativity and ruthlessness in front of goal.
Commons scored 31 goals the season before Deila arrived at Celtic and yet the Norwegian didn’t take to him. After being confined to the periphery under Deila it looked as though Commons might have left the club after throwing his boots into the crowd against Hamilton.
As it turned out, he scored against Rangers in the League Cup semi-final before signing a new deal. However, there remained an underlying tension between Commons, Deila and the backroom staff which bubbled over in his Molde meltdown. Commons is arguably one of Celtic’s best players but Deila’s myopia in this instance helped to lead to his downfall.
Time and again Celtic were punished for their defensive fragility and their propensity to concede cheap goals. In Europe, Celtic were conceding on average at least two goals a game under Deila in this season’s Europa League campaign but, it wasn’t just the volume of goals conceded which rankled with the fans, it was the manner too.
Celtic seemingly refused to learn their lesson from set pieces and zonal marking and were repeatedly punished for their error-strewn displays.
Of course, Deila can only be accountable up to a point but the sheer ‘groundhog-day feel’ to the problems should have been rectified out on the training pitch before being highlighted rather embarrassingly by other teams.
Without their fiercest rivals Rangers to compete for domestic honours, Ronny Deila’s remit was to win the treble for the first time since Martin O’Neill’s side did it in 2001, and take Celtic forward on the European stage. He did neither.
In his first season, after a shaky start, Celtic showed signs of improvement and, barring a major controversial decision in the Scottish Cup semi-final against Inverness CT, they would have had a great chance of winning the treble with Falkirk to play in the Scottish Cup final.
This season, though, Celtic have regressed. Ross County ended their treble dream with defeat in the League Cup semi-final whilst title challengers Aberdeen pushed them far in the league but the ultimate blow was defeat to Rangers in the Scottish Cup semi-final.
Whilst not winning the treble isn’t itself a sackable offence, the culmination of Cup exits and unconvincing league performances is, at a club whose budgets and resources far exceed its competitors.
Not knowing strongest XI
For Ronny Deila to openly admit that he didn’t know his preferred starting XI in March of this season must have had alarm bells ringing inside the minds of supporters.
He’s had two years to build a squad he’s comfortable with. But that admission reflected badly on his ability to manage and must have been seen by many fans as him being out of his depth.
He never seemed to settle on a starting XI. Players like Callum McGregor, James Forrest or Gary Mackay-Steven would be first picks one game then on the periphery in the next.
There was no continuity within his selections which undoubtedly had an effect on performances. In total, Celtic have around 16 midfielders and only one decent striker in Leigh Griffiths, there is no balance to the Celtic squad while the signings of Carlton Cole and Colin Kazim-Richards screamed of desperation and meant an over-reliance on Griffiths’ goals.