Impressive Ajeti, youthful exuberance: 3 things we learned as Celtic beat Sheffield Wednesday

By Euan Davidson

July 7, 2021

Celtic v Sheffield Wednesday was nothing like Ange Postecoglou’s first real test as Bhoys boss. For the players, it was at best a dress rehearsal. I hear you: “pre-season friendlies don’t matter”.

But try and tell me you weren’t even a little excited for this. It’s Celtic, after all. With a new manager, some new players and some youngsters getting their first real opportunities under Postecoglou.

It all counts to some degree. Whether we’d lost this won 3-0 or won it by double-digits, it might not have material impact but there’s at least plenty to talk about. After weeks without Celtic in action, that’s no bad thing.

So, with those caveats to mind, what did we learn from today’s friendly?

Photo by Alan Harvey/SNS Group via Getty Images

Celtic players are having to learn a lot, and quickly

Sheffield Wednesday were playing something close to a full-strength team. Celtic, it’s fair to say, were not. With a lot of young players included, and some youngsters in unfamiliar positions, there was difficulty in moving the ball along.

Once Celtic settled, we looked an awful lot better. And while this isn’t some stark warning of what’s to come, there was plenty of evidence of a few things.

The first being that Ange Postecoglou likes to change his team’s shape on the fly. Celtic were sometimes playing a back three, with Ralston and Montgomery high up. At others, there was a defensive duo, with the full-backs tighter.

Secondly; the passing motion of this side is going to be radically different. There were initial nerves, with Vasilis Barkas seeing plenty of the ball. The players around him, and the central midfield of Soro and McInroy, looked hurried and nervous on the ball at times. The pass-back, a source of groans on a normal day at Paradise, were frequent.

But all that’s fine. It’s a pre-season friendly, our first of a few. And when Celtic did find some fluency, Sheffield Wednesday were made to pay. Today was never going to be an example of liquid football, but it was the challenge for Postecoglou in a microcosm; there might be strife at first, but stick to the plan and the results will come.

Celtic v Sheffield Wednesday: Owen Moffat could be used on the right-wing this season

Owen Moffat has been a top Academy talent for a considerable time, now. He’s already featured in pre-season for Celtic, while keeping a very decent reputation at youth level. Today, he showed some tactical versatility, and Celtic may find themselves relying up on in 21-22.

Again, all this is caveated; we could’ve had Odsonne Edouard in goals for all the game actually mattered. But Moffat looked lively, happy to take players on and drift from the right to form part of an attacking trio.

His goal was extremely well-taken, on the turn. His play deserved it, and it turned the game around for the Bhoys.

With his wild, red hair, you couldn’t really miss him. But for a Celtic youngster taking on professionals in Sheffield Wednesday, he represented himself well. Tricks and flicks, and bags of pace; he may be a player that Postecoglou calls upon to help ease a problem area for Celtic.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Still early days, but encouraging signs from fringe players and new players alike for Celtic against Sheffield Wednesday

Again, for the millionth time; we’re not saying anything declarative here. We’re sure Rafael Scheidt had good pre-season games in his life.

But Albian Ajeti’s performance was encouraging. He looks fitter, happier and more productive leading the line for the first 60 minutes. In a weird, 3x 30 minute format, the Swiss striker bagged a goal, and his movement was promising.

As for Liam Shaw; it’s too early to say I love him. Way too early. It’d be ridiculous. But I’m not saying I don’t. Energetic, robust and seemingly everywhere today, his performance against his old team was mature and rugged.

It’s important we don’t put too much stock in pre-season friendlies. However, this was an entertaining one, and after a season of stagnation, any positive is welcome.

Stray observations:

  • Celtic announced the line-up in order of position, and not by number [Celtic FC]. Please continue this.
  • The tunes before kick-off need looked at. We’re not expecting an hour of pounding techno, but…
  • Commentary highlights included “Luca Connell… Scouser, but nobody’s holding that against him” and “he can’t dance like you, though, Joe”. Excellent stuff.

READ MORE: Swedish journalist gives fantastic insight on Celtic target