Jeremie Frimpong was impressive for Celtic vs Milan; Lennon should stick with change
Last night’s dramatic collapse to A.C. Milan was hard to analyse. In spells, Celtic looked commanding, with progression on the flanks allowing Edouard to get into good positions. At other times, the Bhoys looked absolutely bereft.
The defending wasn’t naïve so much as clueless. The Celtic back-line struggled against a pacy Milan side, and although they’ll not play teams that proficient every week, our defence has been a long-term worry.
Elhamed put in a brutal defensive display in Milan last night. However, as my esteemed colleague David Walton points out, only a run of games will see him improve.
If there were any positives (and there were some, honestly!) to take away, one should be that Jeremie Frimpong played well.
Oh my days, he’s back
The young Dutchman has struggled for consistency but last night, he put in a hell of a shift. With his defensive duties delegated to Elhamed, Frimpong was able to express himself further up the field, to good effect. In the early stages, Theo Hernandez could not stop him.
Cutting in from the right, his tendency to take players on was key in everything Celtic did well. From 1.15 here (BT Sport/YouTube) you can clearly see the winger’s impact on Milan’s rotated defence. It was similar to his breakthrough performance for Celtic, in a 4-0 win against Aberdeen last October (BBC).
When given opportunities to take on opposition defences, Frimpong is utterly fearless. While cynics might suggest that it’s youthful exuberance as opposed to tactical nous, he’s an asset to us when he’s on song.
Celtic fans love a winger. Especially one who’s capable of beating players repeatedly.
In the subsequent flurry of Celtic chances, Frimpong was instrumental. Clever link-up play with Elhamed nearly saw Callum McGregor add to our early lead, while his tenacious set-up for Rogic was sadly wasted by the Australian.
In truth, Celtic could’ve been 4-0 up at one point. If we had been, Frimpong should have taken most of the credit for that.
Frustrating, but still a huge talent
Frimpong has been one of many who have struggled at Celtic Park this season.
Still only 19, he was particularly ineffective against Hibs, Sparta Prague, and in the first tie against A.C. Milan at Parkhead. His proclivity to venture has left the Bhoys vulnerable on the right flank, where a number of goals have been conceded.
His work-rate is unquestionable, but his ability to get back into defensive positions in time leaves much to consider for Neil Lennon.
We talk a lot about Celtic’s recruitment – I’ve certainly been critical on this website.
I still have reservations about the ability of Nick Hammond and his team’s ability in the scouting department, but Frimpong was an absolute steal.
Nobody, Frimpong included, would have imagined the youngster’s impact at Celtic thus far. His press conferences are always an absolute delight. He loves playing first-team football, competing for trophies and playing in front of 60,000 fans.
In an era where media-trained, robotic footballers reveal little, the young Dutch winger sounds like one of us. Both his play and his personality ooze natural enthusiasm and charisma. Lennon must harness this, and continue to play him further up the pitch.
To Lenny’s credit
Ostensibly starting two right-backs was a bold move by Neil Lennon, and overall, you couldn’t argue it was entirely convincing on the night.
The boss did what we wanted him to do, though. Milan had specific threats, and Lenny changed the team to counteract that. While criticism has flowed endlessly in the manager’s direction, we must be as forthcoming with praise when it’s due.
Against St. Johnstone, Celtic are utterly desperate for a win. Just one good result could be the lightning rod for the rest of a historically symbolic campaign.
There’s real potential in the Elhamed-Frimpong partnership. If trained together effectively, the two could cut out the mistakes shown last night (specifically for Milan’s third and fourth goals) and work as an assured pairing. James Forrest could legitimately struggle to get his place back if Frimpong can yield results as an attacking threat.
Lennon deserves credit for making a risky choice. Although it didn’t garner a result last night, it showed promise. He’d do well to repeat the trick, as Celtic look to recover the 20-21 season.