Celtic man Kristoffer Ajer not a "top defender", claims McAvennie

By Euan Davidson

February 4, 2021

Celtic centre-back Kristoffer Ajer is not a “top defender”, claims former Hoops striker Frank McAvennie.

McAvennie, who regularly features on Open Goal, told Football Insider he was impressed by youngster Stephen Welsh. However, his ire regarding Ajer was clear to see, with Bitton getting the treatment too.

Despite Celtic winning 4-0, McAvennie was concerned by the Bhoys’ frailties at the back. He has a point; against similar opposition, Celtic have crumbled under little pressure.

However, of all the games to dissect on a defensive basis, it feels harsh to pick the Killie win. Goals from Scott Brown, Odsonne Edouard (2) and Albian Ajeti saw off the manager-less side on Tuesday night.

McAvennie told Football Insider:

“The two of them [Welsh and Ajer] look comfortable together but I am still not totally convinced by that back four. There was a couple of balls that came into the box and your heart is in your mouth. Killie could have got in.

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“Welsh did alright but he is not the big, commanding type I would like to see at centre-half.

“When you bring a young lad like that in you hope that Ajer will be talking to you and doing the organising but I do not think that happened… Welsh was talking to them, so he deserves credit for that.

“I would like to see him play alongside and be taught by top defenders, not Bitton or Ajer. I would like to see Welsh have a wee run of games with a top centre-half, so I am very disappointed that we did not get one in January.”

Not a “top” defender, apparently / (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Criticism of Celtic defender Kristoffer Ajer seems harsh

Despite his reputation, McAvennie often makes quite astute points. He played football at a high level, he knows what he’s talking about to some degree.

Yet, I’m not sure where he’s getting this “Ajer is quiet” stuff from. From a spectator’s point of view, Ajer looks like he’s extremely vocal. He celebrates big tackles as if he’s scored. You can often see him waving and shouting at his fellow defenders to keep a line and stay organised.

So, where that allegation comes from, I’m not sure.

McAvennie is right about one thing, though. Celtic absolutely needed to get a centre-back in during the January transfer window. Ben Davies came close to joining before Liverpool made a shock move to steal the Bhoys’ target. Elsewhere, Mark McKenzie joined Genk instead of Celtic.

Kristoffer Ajer, it must be pointed out, was chased by A.C. Milan and could still move to a big European side this summer. What McAvennie is referring to as “top” is hard to discern, but Ajer is clearly our best defender. Second is Christopher Jullien, a lanky and “commanding” centre-back. So the personnel is there, to some extent.

In any case, it’s good to see Welsh earning plaudits for his performances. It’s been a considerable length of time since an Academy graduate actually made the grade at Celtic, and it’s comforting to know there’s another option in defence.