A case of you don’t know what you have until it’s gone has been the case for Mikael Lustig and Celtic fans.
Celtic’s Swedish right-back gets one hell of a time dealing with crticism from supporters. We even have occasional rants and digs at his own performances at 67HailHail.
Yet, as average as Lustig is as a defender, he’s also ironically now showing how valuable he is to the team.
The Swede had to come off with what looked like a head knock against Red Bull Salzburg. Kristoffer Ajer was his replacement, and he also featured against Hibernian on Sunday too.
Ajer isn’t a right-back, and certainly doesn’t seem to be able to adapt into being one either. Lustig, therefore, is now being shown to be a lot more valuable to Celtic’s cause than we first thought.
Against Salzburg and Hibernian in particular, the Hoops had nothing down the right. James Forrest and Scott Sinclair had no help from Ajer down the right-flank. Whether this is down to positional awareness, or a tactical tweak by Brendan Rodgers, it was brutal to watch.
MORE CELTIC STORIES
Lustig always gets up the pitch
One thing that you can praise Lustig for is his desire to always get up the pitch. He’s an extremely limited footballer, but you’ll always see him supporting Forrest and pushing the opposition back.
Ajer hasn’t been doing that, and neither has the disappointing Cristian Gamboa either. It’s no real surprise that Celtic have been heavily exploited down the flanks in recent matches. Despite the fact Emilio Izaguirre put in an embarrassing performance at Easter Road, Ajer wasn’t much better.
Continuously receiving the ball down the right, he was far too quick to pass back, even after beating his man.
Granted, Lustig isn’t exactly a stranger to the art of the back-pass either. What he does do, however, is put himself out there and play risky passes that get Celtic forward if they come off.
Ajer also didn’t put one single cross into the box against Hibs or Salzburg. He never got beyond Forrest or Sinclair on the overlap, and it often led to the wide-men being crowded out.
Lustig’s absence from the side has been a big blow, whether you like him or not. Celtic still need to strengthen in that area, but in the meantime fans should hope he’ll be fit before the Winter break.