Asked what the single biggest factor was in making great managers, Arsene Wenger was famously short and to the point; Great players, he replied.
When Reo Hatate made his return to the Celtic team after a month-long absence just before the hour mark here, Dundee were a goal down but by no means out of the contest.
Oozing the kind of quality that had been conspicuous by its absence in the side up until that point, the Japanese was one of the key differences between an afternoon of toil for Brendan Rodgers’ side and a routine victory.
With the small matter of an opening Champions League night in Rotterdam coming up on Tuesday, Hatate’s return to the line-up could not have been more timely. Without even a shadow of a doubt, Celtic are a far better outfit when he’s on board.
If only he was the full extent of Dundee’s worries in the second half. Despite briefly departing the scene to have a dislocated shoulder attended to in the opening minutes, Kyogo Furuhashi also made the visitors suffer.
Kyogo Furuhashi scored his side’s second goal against Dundee, making it his fourth of the season so far, along with two assists in the first five games of the Scottish Premiership
Brendan Rodgers’ side sit top of the table after four wins from their opening five matches
Japan’s Daizen Maeda impressed in the first half, although he had a goal disallowed
A quite brilliant header from the striker to double Celtic’s advantage came four minutes before he supplied Matt O’Riley.
Having struggled until David Turnbull won and converted a penalty to break the deadlock, Rodgers’ side might well have won even more handsomely. Alistair Johnston struck the woodwork not once but twice in the closing stages.
With their lead at the top of the table restored, it turned out to be tidy afternoon’s work for Celtic ahead of their opening European assignment away to Feyenoord.
Hatate’s return came on the day that Luis Palma, Paulo Bernardo and Matt Phillips made their debuts.
Given that he hadn’t kicked a ball since featuring for Liverpool against Wolves on January 17, Phillips’ first run-out debut was always likely to be something of a mixed bag.
The defender looked assured on the ball defensively yet toiled with his passing out from the back. He only lasted until the break after rolling his ankle with Gustaf Lagerbielke his replacement, although it does not appear to have ruled him out of the trip to the Netherlands.
The afternoon would have been far more straightforward for Rodgers men had Daizen Maeda’s early strike gone anywhere other than straight into the chest of Trevor Carson. The Dundee keeper did not know a great deal about it.
There was a moment of concern among the home support when Furuhashi dashed up the tunnel holding his troublesome shoulder but the Japanese quickly returned to the fray and picked up where he left off.
O’Riley took himself within one goal of his goal total for the entirety of last season by calmly claiming his third of the campaign with a fine low finish following Furuhashi’s cut-back
Turnbull took the penalty swiftly and smartly, putting the ball straight down the middle
O’Riley tried to take matters into his own hand with a disguised shot that beat Carson but bounced back off the near post.
With frustration just beginning to grow, Yang Hyun-jun set himself up for a strike after being fed by O’Riley but dumped a decent chance into the side-net.
With Liel Abada sidelined for between three and five months, the young Korean will have plentiful opportunities. He just needs to demonstrate a greater calmness when they come his way.
Maeda did have the ball in the net when he rattled the ball past Carson with his left foot but the offside flag that was confirmed by VAR was always coming.
The Celtic winger certainly enjoyed plenty of service. Yet this was another day when his end product was questionable.
There’s a good balance to this Dundee side. And although they inevitably spent most of the afternoon out of possession, the security offered by the sitting pair of Ryan Howley and Malachi Boeteng was invaluable.
A rare advance into the final third just before the break saw Joe Hart parry Luke McCowan’s shot with Zach Robinson unable to adjust his feet quickly enough to convert the rebound at the far post.
In keeping with the story of the first period, Celtic’s promising counter-attack immediately broke down when Callum McGregor’s undercooked pass failed to play in Yang.
There was just more energy about Celtic after the break. Tony Docherty, the Dundee manager, would have doubtless told his players to expect nothing less. The way in which his side fell behind, therefore, would have left him exasperated.
Howley had been neat and tidy in everything he did but he didn’t have to win the ball that was rolled into Turnbull’s feet by Maeda. The full extent of the Dee midfielder’s rashness was evident the minute referee Grant Irvine was advised to upgrade his initial decision of a free-kick on the edge of the box to a penalty.
Turnbull took it swiftly and smartly, putting the ball straight down the middle as Carson went right. Celtic were finally on their way.
The introductions of Hatate and Palma further lifted the mood with the second goal arriving four minutes after they took the field.
Maeda did have the ball in the net when he rattled the ball past Carson with his left foot but the offside flag went up before VAR confirmed that the goal was disallowed for the Japan national
Yang Hyun-jun set himself up for a strike after being fed by O’Riley but missed a decent chance
O’Riley is currently the Scottish Premiership’s second top scorer, after teammate Furuhashi, having scored three goals and two assists so far – one away from his total goal tally last season
Rodgers’ side have won four and drawn one of their opening five matches of the campaign
With Zach Robinson down at the time, it was clearly unfortunate from Dundee’s point of view. Given his injury was clearly now a head knock, though, neither Celtic or the referee were compelled to stop the game.
Even a full quota of Dark Blue would probably have made no difference. McGregor’s cross from deep was measured with his left foot to perfection. Having timed his run to perfection, Furuhashi calmly claimed his fourth of the season with a well-placed header.
Only Carson’s reflex save to touch the ball onto the bar prevented Johnston claiming the third but it felt like he was delaying the inevitable.
O’Riley took himself within one goal of his goal total for the entirety of last season by calmly claiming his third of the campaign with a fine low finish following Furuhashi’s cut-back. The Danish international already looks to be thriving under Rodgers’ tutelage.
Although Amadou Bakayoko missed a gilt-edged chance to pull one back for Docherty’s men, only the post prevented Johnston adding a fourth at the other end.