Gordon Strachan's Celtic are going through a positive transition. Paul Le Guen's Rangers are lost in translation. That was the crux of Celtic's Old Firm victory on Saturday, courtesy of goals from Thomas Gravesen and Kenny Miller.
The hosts showed they are starting to gel, with all the best moves orchestrated by an in-tune midfield where Aiden McGeady dazzled on the left and Neil Lennon dominated in the centre. McGeady's header on goal was diverted into Gravesen's path for the opener and the Republic of Ireland international also set up Miller's first Celtic goal. Given Miller's status as a former Rangers player, the celebrations in the stands were suitably raucous.
Le Guen is suffering from not knowing his best XI or preferred formation and not having faith to field an unchanged side, which means no continuity and no consistency. It must also be a concern that he started with four of his signings (three permanent and the on-loan Lee Martin) on the bench. A fifth, Sasa Papac, did reasonably in a first start at centre-half, while a sixth, Jeremy Clement, arguably the best, is out injured.
"We tried our best but our best wasn't enough," said Le Guen in an accurate assessment. "I am worried but I must work to find a solution because we need to find results.
Victory leaves Celtic seven points clear of Rangers already and in good heart ahead of tomorrow's Champions' League home match with FC Copenhagen.
Deja vu? Only in as much as the Scottish Premier League records of both sides look uncannily like they did at the same stage a year ago after eight matches. Celtic have 19 points from eight games now, as then. Rangers have 12 now, against 13 then. No Ibrox regular needs reminding what happened next. Celtic romped to the title, Rangers endured their worst season in a generation and Alex McLeish was on his way.
Celtic then were in transition, Strachan building a side to dominate Scotland. His side seem in healthy flux again, this time with hopes of an impact in Europe. He has options in most positions, hence pressure on any incumbent to excel or face the bench.
Miller's all-round display gives Strachan a positive dilemma up front. For club and country he is growing in stature as a creator and provider, as well as scorer. "A lot of things are said about players," Strachan noted. "Are they good? Are they great? Are they indifferent? Are they a celebrity? But to be a good team-mate is the best thing anybody can say about you and that's what Kenny is."
Gary Caldwell and Stephen McManus are also maturing together as a central defensive partnership but know Bobo Balde is champing at the bit to get back in the side. "I came here to be challenged," said Caldwell, who moved from Hibernian in the summer. "That's what it's all about, becoming a better player."
Goals: Gravesen (35) 1-0; Miller (74) 2-0.
Celtic (4-4-2): Boruc; Telfer, Caldwell, McManus, Naylor; Nakamura (Sno, 71), Gravesen (Pearson, 87), Lennon, McGeady; Vennegoor of Hesselink, Miller (Zurawski, 78). Substitutes not used: Marshall (gk), Maloney, Balde, O'Dea.
Rangers (4-2-3-1): McGregor; Hutton (Sionko, 61), Rodriguez (Rae, 82), Papac, Smith; Ferguson, Hemdani; Burke (Martin, 64), Adam, Prso; Boyd. Substitutes not used: Robinson (gk), Svensson, Sebo, Buffel.
Referee: D McDonald.
Booked: Celtic Vennegoor of Hesselink; Rangers Hutton, Martin.
Man of the match: McGeady.
Attendance: 59,341.Reuse content