After a largely dysfunctional 2020/21 season, manager Neil Lennon “resigned” in February with then assistant manager John Kennedy taking charge for the remainder of the campaign. Despite a respectable performance from Kennedy, Postecoglou took the reins in the summer of 2021 and in retrospect, this is when the real shift began at Celtic Park.
Having spent time in Australia and Japan prior to Glasgow, questions were raised initially over Postecoglou’s managerial pedigree, however, with his first season coming to a close, it’s safe to say any critics have been silenced. Since being appointed, the Australian has made notable changes in the club’s style of play and personnel which have both contributed to the likely forthcoming league victory in his debut season.
Comparing this season to last, stylistically, Celtic have drastically changed. Lennon and Kennedy opted for rotations of 4-2-3-1, 3-5-2, 3-1-4-2, 4-1-3-2, and 4-4-2, and while such tactical versatility can be beneficial if executed correctly, if not, it can leave players isolated with no defined, well-understood, and practised system.
The latter appeared to be the case at Celtic Park, with Postecoglou immediately rectifying this by strictly deploying a 4-3-3 or wide 4-2-3-1, essentially retaining the same system for every game. Besides more familiarity from players, the fluidity of Celtic’s overall game benefitted, with a byproduct of this being significant growth in attacking output. Despite having four games remaining, Celtic are the division’s top scorers with 80 goals, already surpassing last season’s tally, as well as two of the three seasons before that.
Combined with Postecoglou’s tactics, another contributing factor in Celtic’s resurgence are the players themselves, with the Australian making several key signings.
In the last two windows, Celtic has welcomed four J-League (Japan’s First Division) players, two of whom are forwards Kyogo Furuhashi and Daizen Maeda, known to Postecoglou from his time in Japan.
Both have exceptional records in the J-League in recent seasons, and since joining the Glasgow side have fully embodied Postecoglou’s high-intensity hard-working mantra. Their work rate and end-product has seen them quickly become fan favourites, with Kyogo’s 14 league goals seeing him lead the SPFL scoring charts.
For Celtic fans and Postecoglou, the bond extends far beyond the football pitch, as both share similar backgrounds. As a Greek immigrant in Australia, Postecoglou understands and relates to the Celtic’s heritage of being an Irish-based club in Glasgow, and in return, the Parkhead faithful developed an almost instant affinity with the Australian. His passion for football and Celtic is unquestionable, and it’s this very attitude that has seen him shoot to popularity at Parkhead and has helped reinvigorate the side in such a short space of time.