‘We played so badly we made them look good’
INTERVIEW Dutch defender is coy on his Parkhead future after saying that Celtic’s Europa League display was their worst performance of the season
VIRGIL VAN DIJK labelled Celtic’s Europa League performance against Astra Giurgiu on Thursday night as “the worst of the season” and felt the team needed to find a greater degree of consistency.
The Dutch defender, who was also not entirely dismissive of speculation linking him with a January transfer to Arsenal, felt Celtic had made their Romanian opponents “look good” with a display that was erratic, hesitant and unconvincing. Goals from Stefan Scepovic, his first for the club, and Stefan Johansen paved the way for an eventual 2-1 victory that presents Celtic with the opportunity to qualify for the knock-out phase of the competition in the return fixture with Astra in a fortnight.
Van Dijk, though, stressed that Celtic would have to play a lot better if they are to embark on a winning run, starting with tomorrow’s home match against Kilmarnock.
“It was our worst game of the season I think,” said the Dutchman. “We were so bad that we made them look good. Every chance they got was due to a mistake by us. What was the problem? I have no clue. But at the end of the day football is about winning. We won the game and that is the most important thing.
“But we know we can play better. We need to forget this game. Of course, the fans want to see good football, entertaining football, but it didn’t work out the other night. We still have confidence in ourselves. We will work hard and train hard to get ready for Sunday.”
On the back of a resounding 5-0 defeat of Ross County, Van Dijk was at a loss as to why Celtic weren’t able to put in another high-octane performance in midweek. And he admitted the team has struggled to gain any real momentum this season.
“Yeah, it has been a little bit inconsistent. We need to get a little bit of consistency in our play. But it takes a little bit of time. There were a lot of changes this season with past years. It takes time. The most important thing is winning.
“Of course, we want to play great football, for the fans but for ourselves as well. We want to make it easy for ourselves as well.
“We know that every home game in the Scottish Premiership our opponents are going to sit and wait until they can counter attack. We need to be sharp on the ball, keep the ball, create a lot of chances and score goals. That is what we’re capable of and need to do.”
Arsenal have been linked with a move for Van Dijk and he was coy about his future prospects. “Arsenal are an amazing club. It’s a big club with a great history. But so are Celtic and I’m very happy here just now.
“I just want to play well and we will see what happens in the future. There are stories but until there are bids or anything I can’t say anything. I still have a contract and there is no bidding right now.
“The way it looks, I’ll still be here. I have ambitions but Celtic is an amazing club with a lot of history. There is no rush to leave but you never know in the future.”
Scott Brown, meanwhile, praised the performance of Craig Gordon after the goalkeeper pulled off a number of impressive saves, in the first half especially, to keep Astra at bay.
“I knew how good Craig was from the time we played together at Scotland,” said the Celtic captain. “And now his shot stopping, reactions and his ability to come for crosses just seems to be getting better and better.
“Everyone has been saying things about his kicking but that’s brilliant, too. He’s calm and composed as well. We’ve always got that belief that if someone gets one on one with him that he’ll make the save.
“He doesn’t look like a guy that’s been out for two years. He’s kept himself fit as well and has been doing a lot of gym work outside training which I’m sure has helped him. Who’d have thought we’d get a £9m keeper for nothing, but it’s a great bit of business. He’s come in and lifted the camp as well as he’s a great lad.”
WANTED MAN: On Arsenal’s reported interest, Virgil van Dijk says that he just wants to play well and he will ‘see what happens in the future’.