Stockholm Syndrome

Edouard scoring his free kick against AIK last weekThe frustration of Celtic is never quite as obvious as when you can almost predict how things will play out.

This summer we’ve watched as more than a full defensive line has left the club. Most of it was predictable, we knew Filip Benkovic was returning to Leicester after his loan, we knew Dedryck Boyata’s contract was ending, we knew Cristian Gamboa didn’t have a future at the club, we guessed Mikael Lustig would have had enough, we knew Emilio Izaguirre wouldn’t be hanging around, and as much as we hoped otherwise we suspect Kieran Tierney would be the big money out the door this summer.

Yet here we are, the end of August, and we’ve just seen an out of favour loanee right back come in the door from the team bottom of the English second tier. The other right back we brought in is injured, and both the left back and the centre back we brought in weren’t trusted to play the crucial second leg of the Champions League qualifier.

It’s the same every transfer window.

Neil Lennon said at the weekend he wanted two or three players in either Monday or Tuesday. We got that one loan on Wednesday. We were told that if Tierney goes then we have a contingency plan, but unless that contingency plan is to misuse Callum McGregor as a left back then we’ve done nothing to demonstrate what it is.

The season ticket money was in ridiculously early, the fans backed the club to get business done early. That’s despite evidence in previous years that we wait until the end of the window to do short term business! How were the fans repaid for this faith? Same old story yet again.

We sign players on agent recommendation rather than scouting. We bring in loanees and then watch them go again later. We penny pinch in the Scottish market and see talent go elsewhere instead.

And that’s without the fact that I’m still annoyed that we offered the manager’s job moments after winning the treble and then bragged about not looking elsewhere as if checking our options was a bad thing!

We need change at the top, and then we need change to our structure to match it. The theory of what we’re trying to do is sound, but those tasked with implementing it have proven time and again that they are incapable of doing it.

It’s all so predictable off the park, but it’s probably just as predictable on the park too.

Celtic take a 2-0 lead to Sweden today hoping to ensure a second leg result that will take us safely through to the Europa League group stages. We have a lead, we have a cushion, we haven’t conceded an away goal and we know we could score one ourselves.

So why is it the most common thing I’ve seen suggested about tonight is that AIK score an early goal and give us all the fear?

Because we’ve seen this story before. We are notoriously bad for conceding early goals away from home in Europe. The last time we took a 2-0 lead from the home leg was against Utrecht and they thumped us 4-0 in the second leg. They had that tie levelled in just twenty minutes!

A year later we were a goal down and a man down again Sion, but thankfully half that team shouldn’t have been there and we went through on away admin.

More recently we had our 5-0 lead against Astana ticked away from home, we were biting our nails against Be’er Sheva, and of course there was our last visit to Sweden when we lost 2-0 to Malmo and they knocked us out 4-3 on aggregate.

Well at least it took until midway through the first half to lose that first goal, I suppose that’s only borderline early.

We should be confident going into this match today. We were by far and away the better team last week, and they struggled to create much but did a reasonable job of keeping us out. They might not change their tactics too much, and the fact that their striker Tarik Elyounoussi limped off at the weekend might also be good news for us as he already missed the first leg through suspension.

But you’re just waiting on the curveball team selection. Or the stupid mistake early on that gifts them a way back into the tie and boosts their confidence. We’ve been here far too many times to think any other way.

Although, there is the time before last that we went to Sweden. When we faced Helsingborgs in 2012, it was us that scored the early goal. We’d barely kicked off when Kris Commons put us in front. Granted that was the first leg, but if we could do something similar tonight then AIK would suddenly need four goals without reply.

Yes we conceded four to Cluj in the last round, but can you really see us doing that tonight without us scoring again? They’d leave too many holes at the back for us not to pick them off.

I’d love a nice relaxing evening watching the game tonight, but I know with Celtic I almost certainly won’t get it. However, like Astana and Be’er Sheva before, such heart failure inducing matches aren’t so bad if you get over the line anyway.

We wanted the Champions League group stages and didn’t make it. Now we practically demand the Europa League group stages. We need to be in that draw on Friday.

And if we do that then, predictably, we’ll almost certainly get Arsenal. And Cluj again.

Krys (Twitter @krys1888)

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