NONE of the Celtic supporters who were in the crowd at Parkhead on Sunday will be particularly optimistic of their team enjoying a more successful campaign than they did last season at the present moment in time.  

Or, for that matter, of manager Ange Postecoglou avoiding the same fate of his predecessor Neil Lennon in the coming months.  

The Glasgow giants could certainly have won the cinch Premiership match against Dundee United and won it comfortably given the number of scoring chances they created during the course of the 90 minutes.

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But, at the same time, the frailties they exhibited in the league defeats to Hearts, Rangers and Livingston away were very much in evidence too in the 1-1 draw. Their finishing was woeful. Their defence, posted missing at the equaliser, failed to convince. They lacked a much-needed intensity off the ball. They had no physical edge, not least in the middle of the park.

Could they flop in Europe and come up short in the League Cup, Premiership and Scottish Cup in the coming months? If they keep performing as poorly there is every chance. It was an alarming display for their fans.

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Could Postecoglou come under pressure if there is no upturn in fortunes and pay the price with his job? His circumstances are completely different to those of the previous incumbent. He has had to oversee a major rebuilding job and needs to be given time to see what is a long-term project through. But in a results-driven business nothing can be ruled out.

Celtic have now won just one of their last four Premiership outings and trail top flight leaders and defending champions Rangers by six points. There is already precious little margin for error in the league. And it is still only September.

There are, though, reasons why this is just a temporary dip in form, not the beginning of a another implosion, and the disappointment, humiliation and failure of last term can be avoided going forward.

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For a start, they have a raft of important first team players out at the moment. James Forrest, Kyogo Furuhashi, Mikey Johnston, Christopher Jullien, Callum McGregor and Greg Taylor are all injured. Josip Juranovic and James McCarthy joined their fellow new signing Giorgos Giakoumakis on the sidelines yesterday.

Postecoglou is optimistic of getting many of them back imminently. When they start to return performances and results will improve. They can, let’s face it, hardly get any worse.

None of his squad members are hankering after a move away. Most have just arrived and are hungry to perform well, prove themselves and lift silverware. That was very much not the case last season. Some longed for a fresh challenge, not to mention a lucrative transfer, and were aggrieved they had to remain and spearhead the ultimately ill-fated push for 10-In-A-Row.

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Their questionable commitment to the Celtic cause angered Lennon. He publicly castigated the attitude of certain unnamed individuals after defeat to Ferencvaros in the second qualifying round of the Champions League in August. His outburst very much set the tone for a calamitous campaign.

No current player has had any cause to take exception to any of the comments that Postecoglou has made in recent weeks. The Greek-Australian is an experienced coach and a shrewd man manager. He appreciates that singling out players for blame can be counterproductive. He has regularly shouldered full responsibility for below par showings, dropped points and defeats.

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After the 1-0 loss to Rangers at Ibrox last month he admitted that he should have played Kyogo Furuhashi through the middle instead of out wide. Following the 1-1 draw with Dundee United at Parkhead yesterday he stated that it was “on him”. That is the sort of support that footballers appreciate from their manager.

Then there are the new tactics that Postecoglou has introduced. The attacking style that he wants his team to play is, when it works, a delight to watch. Fans were in thrall when their heroes annihilated Dundee, Hearts and St Mirren at home last month. Is tactics were quickly dubbed “Angeball”.

But “Angeball” is very much a work in progress. It can leave them exposed at the back and when they lack a ruthlessness in the final third, as they did on Sunday, that can prove costly. It will take games, and a greater consistency of selection that comes with having a full complement of players to choose from, to get it right.

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The defence is certainly a concern. Carl Starfelt, a £4.5m acquisition from Rubin Kazan in July, has failed to show why it cost so much to secure his services. Cameron Carter-Vickers, who has arrived from Spurs on loan, has taken time to settle. At the moment, restoring Stephen Welsh to the starting line-up seems to be the most sensible course of action.

There could, with a game against Bayer Leverkusen in the Europa League coming up at Parkhead on Thursday and a Premiership encounter with Aberdeen at Pittodrie on Sunday after that, very well be more pain to endure before there is any gain.

Who will play at left back against opponents who are in second place in the Bundesliga this week? Who play fill the holding midfielder role against the German outfit? The starting line-up will have to be cobbled together with what is available. 

The Celtic fans who booed their side at the final whistle on Sunday have to be appreciative of the situation that Postecoglou inherited and understand the issues he is currently contending with. They must accept that what he is trying to achieve will not happen overnight.

Their absence from stadiums due to the Covid-19 pandemic contributed to their problems last season. They cannot allow their presence to add to their woes this term.

They have, of course, high expectations in the East End of Glasgow. Great things are demanded both on the continent and domestically. But a good level of performance can be delivered at home and abroad on a weekly basis in the future if Ange Postecoglou is allowed to implement the changes that he wants to on and off the park.

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