Neil Lennon has provided some positive injury news on Kristoffer Ajer’s fitness levels.
The big Norwegian international was surprisingly absent from the 3-0 win over Ross County yesterday. His absence came after playing 90 minutes against Kilmarnock at Rugby Park in mid-week. However, whether the astroturf left something on him is debatable.
Regardless, Ajer missed out as Lennon went for the partnership of Christopher Jullien and Jozo Simunovic yesterday. Both men looked shaky at times under pressure, but Jozo especially as he continues his return from injury.
And thankfully, Lennon has stated he hopes that Ajer will train on Monday after picking up what should be a short-term virus. Speaking in comments picked up by the Daily Record, this is what he had to say:
“Ajer has a virus so hopefully he will be back on Monday.”
Defensive woes are prominent regardless of formation
The one big concern we’ve had since returning to action this month is our defensive concentration. In each of our three matches since returning, the opposition either have or should’ve scored a couple.
Partick Thistle netted via a penalty at Firhill, but they also missed key one-on-ones from Zak Rudden and Kenny Miller respectively. Kilmarnock did bag one against us through Nicke Kabambe. But yesterday’s game against Ross County was arguably the worst of the lot.
County’s Josh Mullin was constantly getting in behind Simunovic. The Staggies had four real chances before the break but, fortunately, failed to take a single one. Having Kristoffer Ajer back alongside Jullien is clearly the best way to go.
Whilst Ajer does have his faults – Jozo certainly does. His passing has been off-colour since returning, and some of his decision-making has been questionable. For example, Jozo’s decisions against Partick last weekend to attack two long balls that he was never going to win, thus leading to big chances for Thistle, were poor gaffes.
Jullien isn’t without his faults either. He produced the shocking back-pass against Partick that led to their penalty. He was also guilty of one first-half chance yesterday via a ball in behind. But he does a lot more good than bad, and is a real threat from set-pieces.
Celtic’s strongest partnership remains Ajer and Jullien. Whether we go with three or four at the back, those two must always feature from here on in.