There remains plenty to dissect from Saturday’s Glasgow derby defeat, but one of the frustrating elements is something Neil Lennon continues to persist with.
The Celtic boss threw Mohamed Elyounoussi up top alongside Patryk Klimala. Granted, Moi dropped deeper throughout the game, but often went up alongside the Polish striker when the Hoops were attacking.
It’s something Lennon has gone with quite frequently this season. Elyounoussi has played up top in recent games against the likes of Sarajevo, Hibernian, St Johnstone, and now Rangers. Yet on all four occasions, it just hasn’t worked.
It smacks of when the manager decided to go with Ryan Christie against Motherwell, Ferencvaros, and Livingston earlier on this season too. Not one of the fixtures mentioned in this piece so far has seen the Celtic supporters come out of it hailing the frontmen. And that’s because neither of them are.
The reason Lennon is going for square pegs in round holes is because of a lack of fitness in his out-and-out strikers. Leigh Griffiths has only played 14 minutes this season, whilst Albian Ajeti and Odsonne Edouard are still trying to recover from two weeks out of the game.
Not one was available to start against Rangers (or at least Lennon thought so), and that led to him playing Elyounoussi alongside Klimala. Or perhaps just in behind him. God knows what it was we were going for because it was a total mess in the end.
Either a 10 or a left-winger – not a centre-forward
Regardless, Elyounoussi just isn’t effective in either role. He doesn’t have the strength or pace to really trouble defences as an out and out forward. Seldom does he look to go in behind or make the intelligent runs you would expect from a natural centre-forward. Instead, he likes to drop back in front of the defence, which leads to the opposition simply not being stretched enough.
Playing as a number 10 behind two front-men would suit Moi more. He needs more players around him to link-up with, whereas yesterday and in recent games up top the onus has been on him to net. He needs defences to be more preoccupied with other options, as he’s always been a player who needs space.
Lennon has to realise that the likes of Elyounoussi and Christie are not centre-forwards. If we have Ajeti/Griffiths on the bench, get one starting and then take one off at half-time or on the hour mark if necessary.
Fans would’ve been a lot more confident against Rangers had we gone with a Klimala/Griffiths or a Klimala/Ajeti partnership. It just causes the Rangers defence to deal with someone who knows how to get at them and get them turning. Moi simply doesn’t do that, whether that be as a striker or a second-striker.
There is a position for him centrally, but it has to be slightly deeper and with two strikers ahead of him. That’s where you’re likely to see him at his most effective.
However, as for playing him up front? It’s a woeful experiment that really needs to end soon. It’s playing a key part in how toothless we look in the final third.