The Planning Department
It’s been a difficult week for us on the pitch,and one which I think will continue on Thursday evening in Romania. Not that I’m being negative about the last week,nor about our final group match in The Europa League,but we have to be honest about the last two matches. Quite simply,we did not play well. There is a good reason for that,and it is the injury to Odsonne Edouard.
Throughout my fiftytwo years as a Celtic supporter,we have almost always been blessed with an embarrassment of riches up front,starting with Bobby Lennox,Stevie Chalmers,Joe McBride and Willie Wallace and continuing with the likes of Dixie Deans,Lou Macari,Harry Hood and Kenny Dalglish. George McCluskey and Charlie Nicholas came and went to be replaced with Brian McClair,Alan McInally and Mo Johnstone. And so it continued through to the days of Gary Hooper,Anthony Stokes and Sami.
But it may be that the departure of those three was the last time we will see proper front line partnerships at Celtic Park. Leigh Griffiths is undoubtedly a goal scoring machine when he is fit,on form,and full of confidence and enthusiasm. Forty goals only four years ago testifies to that fact-and remember,he is still only 28yo. He should be in his prime,and his best may yet be in front of him,but while we all want Leigh back at his best-for his own sake as well as for the good of the club-there have been too many false dawns recently to be confident. For him to lose out to a diminutive winger-who in fairness,had played well when recently given his chance-does not bode well.
And why did Neil decide to play that diminutive winger as his lone striker? Because,in the absence of Eddy,his choices were severely limited. All those strike partnerships over the years,The Three Amigos,the Henke,Sutton,Hartson battering ram,you name it,and we are reduced to,well,you saw it for yourself on Sunday.
Yes,our midfielders can step up to the plate with the goals we need,but that cannot always be relied upon. Particularly not when they are actually involved in a midfield battle,as was the case on Sunday,or simply not firing,as was the case the previous Wednesday. We also seem to have hit something of a lean spell in this regard with our youngsters,although many of our current crop are held in high regard.
We seem also to have fallen victim to bad luck with injuries,but the fact remains that injuries and suspensions are nothing new in football. There should have been alternatives to fall back on in the almost inevitable eventuality of Eddy succumbing to injury. In much the same way that Eddy himself was the alternative for when Moussa Dembele fell prey to more regular injury problems,we should certainly have had that Plan B just waiting,primed,for his chance.
When a club finds itself with a deficiency in a certain position,it generally faces four options. It can look to the development squad,it can search around the transfer markets,it can adapt from within,or it can do nothing. Kieran Tierney got his chance due to an injury to Emilio,Kris Ajer discovered that he was a centre-half when Jozo got injured. And in fairness,we HAVE tried to buy options to cover or complement Eddy. Vakoun Bayo was signed on the strength of 18 goals in 23 games in Slovakia and Maryan Shved joined us based on 15 goals in 26 games in Ukraine. The latter may be termed a winger,but the stats say differently. He knows where the goal is. Sadly he doesn’t know where the first-yeam squad meet up before matches,and that seems unlikely to change soon. If Neil doesn’t rate him and won’t play him,we should attempt to recoup some of his fee and save on his wages ASAP. Move him on and find someone who DOES fit the bill in the opinion of our manager. Bayo,I like what little I have seen of him. A real handful for defences and a different option to the style offered by Eddy.
But they,and other possible alternatives,haven’t been given the opportunities by Neil,even when fit. I’m loathe to criticise him,but he should have been planning for how to deal with the almost inevitable injuries to Eddy. Either by resting him entirely or by subbing him early,giving the others a chance to get used to the playing patterns of their new team mates. If we can’t deal with an injury to Eddy,even for such a short period,how will we cope without him when he leaves? Given that he has not yet signed a contract extension and that the shelf life in The Hoops of a highly rated player is only around two years,I sugggest that Neil starts planning for the future by viewing events over the last couple of weeks. We don’t have a ready made replacement for Eddy,the way that he was groomed to be ready for when Moussa Dembele departed. It may well be that there actually is one already employed by us but I don’t want to wait until next summer to see if that is the case. Neil should be using the next five months to gradually blend any available options into the squad and then into the team. Only then can we avoid turning the drama of Eddy’s absence into a crisis.
Above article by BMCUWP. Get your thoughts posted as Article of the Day by mailing them to Mahe.