Hearts striker Uche Ikpeazu helped fire his team into a Hampden showdown against either Celtic or Aberdeen yesterday.
The former Cambridge United striker popped up with the first goal that helped open the floodgates for Hearts against Inverness. In the end, they ran out comfortable 3-0 winners in the first of two Scottish Cup semi-finals.
Ikpeazu played a big part in it too. He muscled his way to a loose ball in the box before firing Hearts ahead. He was then brought down by Inverness goalkeeper Mark Ridgers to win the Jambos a penalty. Yes, a fine day at the office for him, and he’ll be back in May to try and shoot us down if we make it.
But what we also found out in the convincing Hearts rout was that Ikpeazu most certainly isn’t worth pursuing from a Celtic perspective.
He suits Craig Levein’s style down to a tee. Hearts do enjoy playing some football on the deck at times. At the end of their moves, however, it’s mostly crosses into the big striker or big punts up to him.
Hearts remain an extremely physical and direct side. It’s Levein’s m.o. This Hearts side are a solid, solid outfit on their day. Whilst consistency remains an issue for them, they pride themselves on their physicality, but they can play a bit too – something Celtic must be wary of should we reach the final.
Doesn’t fit Celtic’s style
But Ikpeazu is not the kind of player that would suit our style whatsoever. When teams face Celtic, they often play with 10 men in front of them and have to break it down. Ball-control in this sort of situation is vital, and Ikpeazu really lacks in his control of the football. Does he have the feet that Odsonne Edouard has, for example? No chance.
Added to that, when Celtic try to hit quickly on the counter attack, Ikpeazu doesn’t look like having the pace to make much of an impact in that regard.
Sure, he latched onto an Olly Lee through ball to win the penalty yesterday. It was a good bit of play from the striker, but it hardly required any pace. This is a forward that relies majorly on strength. If he didn’t have that level of power, you could easily argue whether he would able to play at this level.
Yesterday’s strike was also just his seventh of the season. Granted, the big Englishman was out for four months between October and February. But he still has 22 appearances to his name this term too. He hasn’t just played a few games here and there.
Given Celtic’s link to him in recent times, many of us will have been watching him closely. Reports have shown the reaction of what Celtic and Rangers fans thought of his performance, and that sums it up well.
Ikpeazu is an absolute battering ram and a sensational weapon for Hearts. If we make the Scottish Cup final, he’ll cause our defence plenty of problems given their style of play. But if he does, it’ll be because of his strength, not his technical ability.
And for the team we should be trying to build this summer, we don’t need a player of Ikpeazu’s ilk.