Michael Stewart discusses problem with Kristoffer Ajer's Celtic defending on Sportscene

By John McGinley

September 21, 2020

Pundit Michael Stewart was one of the panellists on BBC Sportscene last night and picked out Kristoffer Ajer as a player who requires improvement at Celtic.

Ajer is one of the Bhoys’ most valuable emerging prospects.

Still just 22, he is consistently linked with a move away to bigger leagues.

However, on occasion, he is still letting himself down defensively in the Celtic set-up.

Celtic defender Kristoffer Ajer / (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

That was no more so apparent than in the weekend’s 3-2 victory over Livingston, with the Norwegian having a difficult afternoon up against a committed Gary Holt side.

He also conceded a penalty which, while harsh, was still an example of the player allowing himself to be exposed.

Stewart said on Sunday’s edition of Sportscene: “The problem is it’s the defensive lapse of concentration initially and that leads to him lunging in.

“Ajer has to recognise where the danger is.

“His strengths are when he steps forward with the ball, he really commits opponents, he’s comfortable, he can pick passes.

“The problem is the instinctive defensive nature of his game isn’t quite there and he was caught on a number of occasions in the first half specifically.”

Stat-tracking website WhoScored reckoned that Ajer was Celtic’s poorest performer against Livi, so there is certainly room for him to improve over the coming weeks.

His lack of defensive instinct may have its roots in the fact he progressed in his younger days as a midfielder, only adapting to a central defensive role when Brendan Rodgers got his hands on him.

Celtic defender Kristoffer Ajer / (Photo by Paul Campbell/Getty Images)

The issue Celtic have is that it could cost us against a higher standard of opponent such as in European competition or against Rangers.

We really need Ajer to develop a ruthless streak when defending the ball and show consistency, or it may be best for us to finally cash in on him.

Poor decision-making can’t continue.

In other news, 67 Hail Hail have been speaking to Jackie McNamara about Neil Lennon’s Celtic team selections.