Yet another game goes by and yet another goalless outing for Albian Ajeti.
It’s so easy to have a pop at him just now. Nothing is coming off for the Swiss forward after the Hoops splashed out £5million for him when they signed him from West Ham in the summer (Sky Sports).
It all started brilliantly too. Ajeti banged home five goals in his first six Scottish Premiership games for the club. It was a fine return and he looked like shooting himself to new heights.
However, when he smashed home that fifth goal against Hibs back in September, he picked up a hamstring tweak that kept him out of action for a couple of weeks. Since then he hasn’t managed to pick up his form.
But Neil Lennon hasn’t been helping his new recruit. Against Aberdeen, Lille, Motherwell, and Hibernian – Ajeti has started the games up top on his own, and it’s becoming quite clear that this simply isn’t his game. He needs a partner in there.
It was so evident against Hibs just how isolated Ajeti was even when we were attacking. He was making runs all over the shop that weren’t being picked out by the likes of Tom Rogic, Ryan Christie, or Mohamed Elyounoussi respectively.
Too often is the Swiss star making intelligent movements only for the likes of Moi to pass it back to Callum McGregor instead. Ajeti is suffering from not having enough help in the final third, and it’s showing badly.
Ajeti’s been at his best this season alongside a partner
Look back at his goals this season for example. His domestic strikes against Dundee Utd, Motherwell, Ross County, Livingston, and Hibernian all came whilst he had a partner playing up alongside him. Even if it was Christie or Elyounoussi pushing forward, just having that extra body playing as a striker has helped Ajeti in the past.
Now, he’s being left on his own up there and he just isn’t suited to it. He’s not strong enough to bully massive centre-backs and he isn’t quick enough to get away from them either. But he most certainly is a clinical finisher, and if he gets a clear sight of goal then he’ll bury it. The best way for him to do that is via link-up play with a fellow centre-forward higher up the pitch.
Ajeti spoke in the Celtic View this past week about how he’s been frustrated by his lack of goals in recent weeks. Speaking in the official club magazine (18/11, page 14), he said: “I should try not to let it bother me because you can’t score in every game but I have that much fire in myself that I want to score in every game. If I play 60 minutes or 0 minutes I say to myself ‘I had 60 minutes or 90 minutes to score a goal and I didn’t.
“This is just my mentality and it might look sometimes like I’m frustrated but this isn’t frustration at the gaffer or anyone, it’s just me frustrated that I didn’t meet my own standards.”
But it’s no wonder he’s frustrated when he doesn’t have a partner to link-up with. He needs an Odsonne Edouard or a Leigh Griffiths up there with him regularly. So long as he continues to have little help, his goals will continue to dry up.
He is, at his core, a predatorial finisher. That’s what Ajeti brings to Celtic, and right now he isn’t being given much of a chance to show that key aspect of his game.