Neil Lennon has publicly told Karamoko Dembele that only by developing physically will he be given more Celtic opportunities.
Dembele’s name has been in the spotlight once again in recent weeks after Atheltic journalist Kieran Devlin reported that there were concerns at Parkhead regarding the youngster’s attitude and application.
The mercurial youngster has made four appearances in total for the Hoops after making his debut against Hearts on trophy day back in 2019. Lennon has been the one to give him all four opportunities against Hearts, Cluj, Ross County, and Hamilton respectively. However, he hasn’t been given a minute of action since August.
Lennon made changes to his side for Thursday night’s 3-2 Europa League thriller against Lille, but still Dembele wasn’t anywhere near the picture. But he’ll know fine well what he has to do now after Lennon’s comments yesterday.
As quoted by the Glasgow Times, Lennon said: “He is 17 so again he had a lot of attention when he was younger but he is just making steady progress with the development side.
“It is difficult for the kids because there is no real games programme for them this year and we have had to try and find games for them sporadically.
“We just have to be careful with him and not throw him in too early. He may even develop with him physically. We just have to be patient, we know he is a quality player but physically he still has a bit of development to do to be part of the first-team squad.”
Lennon spot on – Dembele has plenty of development to do
Yes, disagreeing with Lennon may be fashionable at the minute, but he couldn’t be more right when it comes to Dembele and his physical attributes.
In all four of Dembele’s appearances in green-and-white, he’s been the lightest man on the pitch and looks as though he can easily be brushed off the ball. Sure, he gave a tired Aaron Hickey a tough closing spell at Celtic Park back in 2019, but it’s still a worrying sight when someone crunches in on Karamoko.
If he’s to really make an impact here, he has to get a touch stronger and be more robust on the ball. His lack of strength remains his biggest weakness, and it’s something Premiership defenders will undoubtedly target.
It would be interesting to know where Dembele stands in all of this. He’s been silent this season as his contract enters its final year. Remember, when Dembele signed his first professional deal with Celtic, it was only a three-year one until the summer of 2021. We’re trickling ever closer to that.
Looking back on those three years, it’s difficult to say they haven’t been a success. Dembele has been promoted to the Reserve team and has been given some opportunities at first-team level. That’s all he could’ve asked for.
Celtic fans will undoubtedly be concerned that the likes of Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund have been linked with moves for their young winger (Scottish Sun). But there’s still plenty of time for the club to convince him his future remains at Parkhead. If he’s still a good bit away from the first team here, how far away would he be from Dortmund/Madrid’s senior sides?
These are all things Karamoko must consider. He’s hardly made any sort of impact on the club so far, and there must be a sense of debt from him to Celtic considering what the Hoops have done for him in the past.