Celtic boss Neil Lennon wants defensive partnership to blossom

By David Walton

September 18, 2019

Celtic manager Neil Lennon may have just hinted at his first-choice centre-back partnership, as he encouraged Kristoffer Ajer to strike up an understanding with Christopher Jullien.

The duo are likely to start a European match for the first time together at the heart of the back-line on Thursday night. Rennes will be the opposition, and it’s looking like a tougher challenge the closer we get to it.

Lennon has had an incredibly varied amount of defensive partnerships this season alone. Nir Bitton, Jozo Simunovic, and Hatem Abd Elhamed have all played at centre-back this term outside of Ajer and Jullien.

Neil Lennon has seen plenty of defensive changes (Alex Nicodim/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

But speaking in the Celtic View (Volume 55, Issue 11, Page 06), Lenny may have just hinted at who he wants as his two main centre-backs.

“Ajer has been outstanding and he just keeps getting better. It was as if he’d never been away, coming into the team on Saturday.

“Hopefully he can strike up an understanding with Christopher.

“Whoever Kris partners up with, he’s been a top-level performer whether that be centre-back or right-back.”

Celtic duo is by far our strongest pairing at the back

As it looks on paper, Jullien and Ajer are our top two centre-backs. They’ve both displayed a level of performance that suggests the likes of Simunovic and Bitton can’t touch them if they’re both fit.

Lennon appears keen for the duo to really have a run together now. Striking up an understanding with Jullien doesn’t mean that they’re only going to be together for a couple of games. This sounds like it could be Lennon’s idea of a first-choice partnership.

Christopher Jullien is finally ready to play regularly (Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Of course, it’s easy to say that when both Bitton and Simunovic are injured. However, it won’t be long until the former is back. Celtic also have Elhamed who is more than capable of slotting in.

But Lennon comes across as if this is something he’s been wanting to do for a while. Due to defensive injuries and fitness concerns over the summer, there’s been plenty of chopping and changing.

Celtic have suffered in Europe in part due to constant changes with the back-line (Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Credit must go to Bitton in particular, who had a stunning pre-season and start to the campaign. But when everyone is fit, who could truly go without Ajer and Jullien together?

This looks like it’s going to be our long-term partnership. Lennon will know he can’t keep changing things around in that position over the course of the season. Therefore, it’s no surprise to see him openly admit to wanting an understanding between them.