Celtic’s 100% record in the Scottish Premiership continued on Sunday with a comfortable 3-1 win over Craig Levein’s Hearts at Celtic Park.
Neil Lennon’s side were in fine form throughout the 90 minutes, rushing to a 3-0 lead which in truth could have been more before the visitors netted a penalty.
Vakoun Bayo and Callum McGregor were the goal heroes. The midfielder’s effort was the pick of the bunch, slamming home an effort from the edge of the box after being set up by Ryan Christie.
Given he named a rotated side that rested crucial players such as Odsonne Edouard, the manager was left absolutely delighted by the performance of his players.
Heading into a crucial week at home and abroad there’s a lot to consider after the match.
What does the display mean for the state of Lennon’s squad and our immediate ambitions?
Here are three big things we took away from the match…
Kristoffer Ajer is the beating heart of Celtic right now
No-one provides more joy in a Celtic shirt right now than Ajer. His performances, whether in central defence or like today at right-back, are fist-pumping affairs that get the heart racing.
He was a constant option on our right flank against Hearts and really brought a forward urgency to our game that drove us towards victory. The Norwegian may not be a specialist in the position but he’s looking like the best right-back we’ve had for quite a while.
Given we’ve lost important players like Kieran Tierney over the last 12 months, it’s really brilliant to see another young player step up and fill the void with such committed displays.
Long may it continue.
Bayo is a viable striking option
Let’s be honest, not much was known about the January signing prior to today’s match.
We knew he was something of a goal ace in Slovakia. It was clear he was well regarded within the Ivorian national youth setup. There was an understanding he had real fitness problems. Everyone also recognised he had a lot to prove.
Now supporters have a clear picture of what his game is all about. It’s a huge boost to Lennon’s options both in terms of depth and tactical options.
Apparently an energetic expert in running across defenders and causing problems in the heart of the penalty area, he could be quite the goal threat for us this season.
Odsonne Edouard is obviously our number one and Leigh Griffiths will continue to be important.
Bayo though is a real handful and also has a tireless work ethic.
Fans will be clamouring for him to get another opportunity and rightly so.
It’s time to try out a midfield without Scott Brown
No-one has contributed more to Celtic over the last decade plus than Scott Brown but, for me, it’s rapidly becoming clear he is just a step off the sharpness required to carry the Hoops midfield in the way he used to.
That’s not to say he is ‘finished’ quite yet, as that would be absurd.
However, Lennon does need to now try out different blends in the middle of the park to find long-term viable solution to a Brown-less Celtic.
This isn’t even about the penalty he conceded against Hearts either, it’s just that he simply isn’t quite involved in the blood and thunder of matches as much as he once was and, without that, his presence is hard to justify.
In Olivier Ntcham, Callum McGregor and Ryan Christie we have three dynamic and talented midfielders who have enough about them to dominate most of the opposition we will face.
That could be an exciting way forward this season and it’s something we should hope to see in the coming weeks.