Celtic interim boss John Kennedy, there are some difficult choices to make.
Firstly, he needs to make the Bhoys harder to beat, but more exciting going forward. That’s a difficult balancing act, having only led the team for three days. With a tough Aberdeen side coming to Celtic Park, he may be tempted to stick with a 4-4-2. Alternatively, he’s got the opportunity to be bold.
Leaving aside the bizarre goalkeeping situation for a second, there are tricky personnel decisions across the park. We know that Ryan Christie is an excellent footballer, but he hasn’t shown it enough this season. What of Scott Brown, whose contract runs out in the summer? Ditto a handful of Academy graduates, like Karamoko Dembélé and Armstrong Okoflex [Transfermarkt].
There is one very simple, decisive thing Kennedy can do, though. Play one up top, with Odsonne Edouard leading the line.
There’s a misapprehension about formations with one striker. For example, supporters often say “if we’re playing at home, have two up front”. The orthodoxy seems to be that “more strikers = more goals”, but that isn’t necessarily the case. Recent history disproves that.
For example, the exquisitely entertaining Barcelona, Spain and Liverpool sides of the past few years have played with one main striker. Two wide attackers would peel off, finding joy by the flanks and providing assists, or cutting inside and creating their own opportunities.
Celtic interim boss John Kennedy should make most of Edouard
While French Eddy has performed well next to an attacking partner, he’s more than capable of leading the line himself. He’s proven that time and again.
Brendan Rodgers’ most successful sides utilised either Moussa Dembélé or Odsonne Edouard up top by himself. Both French strikers are powerful, with excellent upper-body strength. But what they have foremost is excellent technique, and an established history of being productive in 4-2-3-1 set-ups.
Consider, for example, Edouard’s displays against Rangers, Lazio and Aberdeen, when starting at the tip of a 4-man attack. His interplay with Ryan Christie, as a number 10, worked wonders in seasons prior. With wingers like Mohammed Elyounoussi and – potentially – James Forrest to play alongside this season, there’s real hope.
It also opens up a space for one the aforementioned Academy talents. Celtic interim boss John Kennedy will win immediate favour if he sticks a youngster wide on the right until Forrest can take his position back.
Not blessed for good options
Let’s face it: Leigh Griffiths, Albian Ajeti and Patryk Klimala haven’t really shown enough this season. The former two have had their opportunities. Klimala has found things more difficult, in terms of getting into the first XI.
So, would it not be beneficial to have a front 4, if you like, with two wingers, a number 10 and Eddy there to finish moves off? That was, instead of playing centrally, in the stodgy 4-4-2 set up under Lennon, Celtic can stretch opposition defences more effectively.
Edouard won’t have to change his movement to accommodate another striker. He can focus on finding good positions by himself, accommodated by potentially three assist men, including David Turnbull as a 10.
It sounds exciting to me. Edouard has had his critics, rightly or wrongly this season. But to me, he’s our best striker by a considerable distance. I’m not suggesting we rely on him, but I’d argue we should go back to the system that utilises him best.
Kennedy has plenty of choices here, and we don’t envy him. But this is definitely something to consider.