The less things change, the less they stay the same, seems to be the way of it for Celtic right now.

Brendan Rodgers has heard the criticism of his team this season. How the manager has his team playing too slowly. How the build up is laboured, and predictable. How there are too many sideways passes. How his change of style has stymied formerly star performers like Kyogo Furuhashi. How he has tinkered with Angeball, and ultimately broken a winning formula.

Except, Rodgers says that none of that is true. At least, that he has instructed his players to do any of the things on that list of which he stands accused.

So, what has changed? Nothing, according to Rodgers, apart from the personnel who are being asked to carry out the instructions they have consistently been given.

“It’s certainly not an instruction,” Rodgers said.

“You guys have the chance to watch my teams up here and how they play. It’s definitely not an instruction. It comes from the confidence of players.

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“I’ve heard the bits and pieces around about slower build up. But that’s not the instruction. The instruction is to get through the pitch with speed quickly.

“There is absolutely nothing asked of the players any different to what they have done before.”

So, are the critics who scrutinise his tactics overlook the absence of key men like Cameron Carter-Vickers and Reo Hatate from his line-up for long spells this season?

“Yes,” he said. “And overlook actually what the tactics are.

“I’ve heard and see [people saying] how the style has changed and how the system has changed. But the system hasn’t changed one iota. Not one.

“The full-backs you see here are still coming inside. The wingers still go on the outside. Runs, when they happen, on the inside.

“That’s always the challenge when you come into a winning team, and I am obviously conscious of that. But also knowing that the philosophy isn’t too dissimilar to how I’ve worked before. Whether that’s 3-4-3 or adjusting it.

“So, the system hasn’t changed, the style hasn’t [been] asked to be changed – because my teams are fast and dynamic – but what we most definitely have missed are the players who bring that element to the game.

“Carter-Vickers will wrap the ball forward quickly with confidence. The dynamism in midfield which, instead of playing backwards, will get on the half turn and play the forward passes. So that definitely changes how the team might look.

“You can underestimate the players that have been missing here. They can really make the difference, but our job is to help the players, support the players and guide them so that when they do cross the line they can play with that confidence and also manage the pressure.

“There have been so many games when it should have been dead and buried and we’ve created anxiety in the stands with our play.

“You look at the game last week where we are in a good position and Kilmarnock are starting to tire and we gave them that bit of hope in the game because we didn’t kill it.

“All of a sudden it becomes a little bit broken in the build up and through nothing Kilmarnock did – we did it – we invited that pressure and it became edgy then.”

The counter argument to that point may be that Celtic have been playing in such an edgy manner from early on in the season, save for a spell just prior to the winter break where they looked a lot more like the team who dominated Scottish football last term.

But Rodgers is certain that anxiety is playing a part in his players taking the safe option far too often, and with the most intense part of the season still to come, he is aware that is an issue he may have to help them with.

“That’s the job, to try to give that to the players,” he said.

“We are not even at the pressure point, you know. So you have to help the players rather than play sidewards to make that forward pass.

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“Listen, not every single pass in the game can go forward. Sometimes you have to change your attack to attack better by making one pass, but our game is about progression through the field to score goals and create opportunities. That has never, ever changed.

“And, of course, in that pre-Christmas period, getting through the pitch with speed, everything was there. It’s the ability to maintain that mindset and aggression which is key.”

Whether it has been with Kyogo or more recently with Matt O’Riley, Rodgers has found himself copping the blame for tinkering with the positions of his players when they go slightly off the boil, but when asked if O’Riley had been asked to play in a deeper role of late, he said: “No, he’s not.

“Clearly he’s dried up a little bit, but he’s playing in exactly the same position he’s played in all season, as have all the players. Nothing’s changed, nothing has been asked of them any different. Nothing at all.

“He’s went through a brilliant period at the start of the season, he scored goals and he’s obviously played a lot of football.

“Then, it hasn’t quite come off for him in some of the games where he’s maybe had chances and he can’t score, but he’s not playing any deeper.

“He’s playing in the same position, so hopefully at the weekend he can get back to scoring again, and people will be saying he’s playing higher up the pitch!

“That’s it. Or Kyogo is being asked to play deeper and do other things, which he hasn’t. He’s maybe not getting quite the same through balls and stuff, but that’s the nature of it. Everyone has an opinion to say what they want to say or think.

“That’s the free world that it is, but we just stay focused on what we need to do and train and work hard.

“Like I say, there’s no magic formula to it, it’s hard work, it’s mentality, and take that into your games and see where it takes you.”