SPFL: Record Points Total or Not, Celtic's Season Cannot Be Considered a Success

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SPFL: Record Points Total or Not, Celtic's Season Cannot Be Considered a Success
Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

Whether or not Celtic equal the record points total of the SPL/SPFL era of 103, set by Martin O'Neill's side in 2001-02, their season cannot be considered a success.

Equalling the points record is not a foregone conclusion yetafter drawing 1-1 at home to Ross County on Saturday they would need to win all six remaining matches to do so. Of course, that feat is not beyond their capabilities; Neil Lennon's side have lost just once and drawn four times in the league all season.

Yet, questions still remain. Does the commanding nature of Celtic's march to a 45th top division title serve simply to undermine their season as a whole?

Even if a third successive title win was inevitable, the level of consistency Lennon's side have shown is impressive by any standard. Kris Commons has, once again, reaffirmed his credentials as the best player in the country with an outstanding 27 goals from his attacking midfield berth to date.

A change in formation to a diamond midfield, with Commons as the attacking point, has produced a system which is both fluid going forward and solid defensively. Virgil van Dijk has rarely looked less than imperious in central defenceeven if he continues to be excluded from Louis van Gaal's Netherlands squad. Fraser Forster, meanwhile, furthered his own quest to go to the World Cup this summer by breaking the Scottish record for minutes without conceding a goal.

Nevertheless, a totally disheartening European campaignone win and five defeats from six matches, with just three goals scoredin addition to premature exits in both domestic cups combine to raise a massive question mark over where it went so wrong outwith league football.

An argument could be made that getting to the group stage of the Champions League was an achievement in itselfand there is doubtless substance in such a contention. However, with the excellent precedent set the previous year, when Lennon led the Hoops to the round of 16, the fans would have been forgiven for expecting a much better showing in the group itself.

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Facing Barcelona was always going to be difficult, even more so this time round as the Catalans were out to avenge the momentous victory Lennon's side achieved against them last season. Ajax minus Christian Eriksen and a Milan side enduring their worst domestic campaign for years were far less intimidating.

Yet, once again the difference between the Scottish champions and their European opponents was lack of technical quality and the ability to keep possession effectively. And goals; three during the group stage is simply not good enough.

The season was just a couple of months old when the Hoops crashed out of the League Cup at home to Mortona team which has now been relegated from the second tier of Scottish football having won just twice in the league all season. 

With the treble already lost to them and a European run out of the question, the goal changed to winning the double and going through a full league season unbeaten. The season's standout side, Aberdeen, destroyed both possibilities in the space of just two-and-a-half weeks back in February.

February 8 brought Scottish Cup elimination to the Donsyet again the Hoops were put out at homeand saw the season's target reduced only to an unbeaten league campaign. Aberdeen ended that hope, as well as Fraser Forster's clean sheet run, as Celtic travelled to Pittodrie and succumbed 2-1 on February 25.

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And so, the equalling of a points total set in a different era is the only target remaining to Celtic across the last month of the season.

Last term, Celtic's league form was uninspiring, with players at times seeming unmotivated and distracted. A brilliant Champions League campaign which brought an historic win over Barcelona at Celtic Park and a domestic double more than compensated for the lack of overall competition in the league.

This season, the history books will suggest the title was the only accolade which interested them.

 

Twitter: @smarti51

All statistics referenced in this article come from Transfermarkt and Soccerbase.

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