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What Can Neil Lennon Do To Address The Issues That Celtic Are Facing In The Striker’s Role?

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Nikhil Vinodh
Nikhil has been an avid Chelsea fan for as long as the concept of time has existed and rumours say that he even bleeds blue. Having lived in the UK for 3 years, Nikhil is said to have an excellent understanding of the atmosphere surrounding the English game. His role model is the greatest manager of all time - Jose Mourinho.

Premiership giants Celtic have been struggling to get into a run of form this season, owing to a multitude of reasons. A few of the summer signings they made haven’t worked out at all, while Neil Lennon’s tactical understanding of his players has been questioned on numerous occasions as well. Fans are clearly unhappy with the way in which things have been running of late, and a lot of the blame does fall on the shoulders of the team itself. While it’s obvious that defensive fragility is a serious issue at this point in time, the attacking play that the Hoops have produced has been far from their best as well.

The Celts currently possess four different striking options in the squad. While it could be argued that their lack of goals this season is down to some poor supply from the midfield, it must be taken into account that the same produced different results last season. This makes it obvious that the issue, at least in terms of strikers, isn’t with the personnel. However, considering their frustrating dependence on Mohamed Elyounoussi for goals, it’s something that does need to be studied. The Bhoys’ four options in the role are Albian Ajeti, Odsonne Edouard, Patryk Klimala and Leigh Griffiths.

What Is Celtic’s Current Strike Situation?

Neil Lennon is clearly still undecided on what his first-choice team for the season is, as they continue to make changes for every other game. While alternatives aren’t available in some other areas of the pitch, the strike role is one where the manager is spoilt for choice. Albian Ajeti was signed from West Ham United in the hope that he would be able to provide competition to Odsonne Edouard, thereby bringing the best out of both of them. But alternating between the two throughout the season isn’t the way to go about addressing the situation.

What Neil Lennon Can Do To Fix Celtic’s Lingering Striker Woes - Ajeti celebrates
DUNDEE, SCOTLAND – AUGUST 22: Albian Ajeti of Celtic celebrates after scoring his team’s first goal during the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership match between Dundee United and Celtic at Tannadice Park on August 22, 2020 in Dundee, Scotland. (Photo by Steve Welsh/Pool via Getty Images)

Celtic play a rather attacking style of football, however, given the lack of pace in their squad, it’s essential for the striker to get involved in the play as well. James Forrest is arguably the only player in the team who is capable of being explosive in attack, with the likes of Mohamed Elyounoussi and Ryan Christie offering relatively slower presences. What this means is that they need assistance from the striker to even get the ball into the area, which is something that they have struggled to do. The return of Forrest might change things drastically, but depending on one player like that was never going to be a good idea.

As good as Edouard is with his back to goal, they’ve been asking him to do far too much as a striker. Albian Ajeti, on the other hand, was never going to be the kind of player who holds defenders off and helps his team hold the ball up. The Swiss international is a predatory striker if there ever was one, in that any crosses played into him inside the box will likely be tucked away. Leigh Griffiths can be best described as the perfect blend of the two aforementioned names, and as exciting as that does seem on paper, it doesn’t serve Celtic’s purpose one bit.

The one player in the roster who could develop into exactly the kind of striker Celtic need is Patryk Klimala. Despite not being the biggest in stature, the youngster has good upper body strength, as well as a low centre of gravity. This allows him to not just keep defenders in check, but also hold onto the ball when facing away from goal. The number of opportunities that he has got in attack this season has been extremely limited, with his only start in the lone striker’s role coming in the defeat against Rangers. If that’s the performance that Lennon has judged him based on, it’s not only unfair, but also quite ridiculous.

Here’s What Neil Lennon Can Do To Fix Celtic’s Lingering Striker Woes:

What Neil Lennon Can Do To Fix Celtic’s Lingering Striker Woes - Klimala celebrates
Celtic FC’s Polish forward Patryk Klimala (L) celebrates with his teammates after scoring a goal during the Lyon friendly tournament football match OGC Nice (OGCN) vs Glasgow Celtic FC on July 16, 2020 at the Groupama stadium in Decines-Charpieu, central-eastern France. (Photo by JEFF PACHOUD/AFP via Getty Images)

What Neil Lennon Can Do To Fix Celtic’s Lingering Striker Woes

Switch To A Front Two

If the manager is insistent on playing one of either Ajeti or Edouard, he would likely be best off playing them both together. While the Frenchman’s movement in the attacking phase would be beneficial to the team’s intentions, it would also open up spaces for the former West Ham man to pick out. It might further allow Edouard to drop a little bit short to support the midfield, or a tad wide to improve their width. With Elyounoussi and Christie both preferring to come inside rather than take the outside channel, having two players to work the ball to could be the way to go, rather than having a number ten who’s unable to link up with the striker.

Bring Klimala Into The Team

The Polish forward has made just two starts in the league all season, with only one of them giving him an opportunity to lead the line alone. Not only is the youngster sharp with his general movement in the final third, but he has also shown in the past that he knows where the goal is as well. Unafraid to put his body on the line for the sake of the team, his inclusion would give the likes of Elyounoussi and Christie someone to play the ball off, thereby opening up spaces that would otherwise be occupied by opposition defenders. His gritty and dynamic playing style could unlock a certain panache that has been missing in this Celtic team.

Instruct Elyounoussi And Christie To Use The Width

As things stand, the only players in the Celtic team who actually make full use of the flanks are the full-backs Jeremie Frimpong and Diego Laxalt. While the latter is an experienced player who has been producing the goods, Frimpong’s crossing ability from wide is extremely questionable. If Neil Lennon is adamant on sticking with one of Ajeti or Edouard, then asking the makeshift wingers to actually use the wings would be a good way to start. Both the aforementioned strikers are undoubtedly at their best inside the box, and forcing them to come out and bring others into play is nothing but silly.

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