Celtic: Neil Lennon cites change in tactics for top-of-the-table form

Lennon has switched Celtic's formation to a 3-5-2 since the winter break
Lennon has switched Celtic's formation to a 3-5-2 since the winter break

Manager Neil Lennon believes a change in tactics has played a vital part in Celtic stretching their Scottish Premiership lead to 10 points.

Since moving to a 3-5-2 after the winter break, Celtic have won all six of their league matches, scoring 22 goals along the way.

Lennon played in a similar formation under Martin O'Neill and now believes its suits his own team too.

"We just felt we were getting a little stale with the 4-3-3," said Lennon.

"We just looked at it and looked at the personnel we had. We can always go back to that or we can stay with the three [at the back]. So we're flexible with whatever formation we want to play."

The new system allows Lennon to play an extra central defender, as well as full-backs like Greg Taylor and Jeremie Frimpong in more attacking roles on either wing.

Yet the manager thinks the addition of an a second central forward is the most important element of the tactical switch.

Neil Lennon played a 3-5-2 formation during Celtic's 5-0 win over Hearts
Neil Lennon played a 3-5-2 formation during Celtic's 5-0 win over Hearts

"The strikers, I think," said Lennon, when asked for the best characteristic in the change of approach. "All of a sudden, you start building partnerships.

"If you've got three really strong centre halves, that gives you the three in midfield and if you have pace out wide - which we do - then you can utilise that as well.

"I thought that Greg Taylor had an outstanding game last night (a 5-0 win over Hearts). One of his best since he came here.

"And I like the style of football with it being more possession-based at times and what that brings."

Following in Conte's footsteps

Celtic were offered the chance to contemplate an end-of-year 2-1 defeat to Rangers and wipe the tactics board clean during their winter training camp in Dubai.

With injuries to a numbers of wide players in his squad, Lennon opted for a set-up that would minimise the need for traditional wingers and moved away from the 4-3-3 favoured by predecessor Brendan Rodgers.

The formation not only worked for Lennon as a player but was also one that he has admired watching the teams of Italian coach Antonio Conte.

"It was because we had a lot of wingers out at the one time," he said. "It was something that we quickly looked at.

"I played under Martin O'Neill with that system for a long, long time as well. So it can work.

"Antonio Conte's Juventus was very successful with it, he's getting great joy out of it again with Inter Milan and obviously he won the English Premier League with it at Chelsea.

"He's sort of mastered it really. But I'm not saying it's set in stone for us going forward this season. We'll see how we get on with it."

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