"Everyone's fit"; Elyounoussi clearly disagrees with Lennon's Celtic fitness assessment
During Mohammed Elyuounoussi’s press conference (Celtic TV, 09/12/2020), the Norwegian winger made most of the right noises. Ahead of a supposed “dead rubber” against Lille, the winger had a fair bit to say.
“Everyone wants to improve”, Moi said. “I am really sure that we are going to turn things around”. It was typical stuff from a Celtic player at this moment in time, and he came across well.
There was, however, an interesting moment at around 7 minutes. Elyounoussi seemed to laugh off comments that Neil Lennon had made on Sunday about player fitness.
In response to a question about Lennon’s fitness complaints, Elyounoussi said:
“No, it’s nothing about the fitness level. We’ve been working really hard, if you see the stuff in training compared to last year, the quality’s there. So it has nothing to do with fitness or anything like that.”
“I haven’t heard anything. I just heard it from you now. So that was a surprise for me. We’ve been working really hard, especially when we had lockdown in March. The fitness coach worked really hard to keep us exercising at home. Fitness wise, no, everyone’s fit, everyone’s sharp.”
Team and coach in direct contrast
With those seemingly innocuous comments, Elyounoussi might well have landed his manager in a bit of bother.
On Sunday, after the tough 1-1 draw with St. Johnstone, Lennon had told PLZ Soccer:
“Some players aren’t fit enough and that’s been the case for a long time. Some players are just not in good form. They need respite at some stage, they need some support from me.
“But again it’s a two-way thing, the players have got to play better, we’re trying everything we can to get performances right.”
So what does this mean? Who’s telling the truth here?
Elyounoussi is not the one with his job under scrutiny. The worst thing that could happen for the Norwegian is being sent back to Southampton, his parent club. Nobody at Celtic would necessarily want that to happen.
Neil Lennon, on the other hand, was either on-message or went totally off-script on Sunday. Would the board want Lennon to emphasise the build-up of fixtures and the impact of COVID? Or was he not meant to give excuses?
The conspiracy theorists could have a field day with this one. You get the sense from Mohammed Elyounoussi that he’s nothing but a positive dressing room influence and hard worker.
On this occasion, though, he might’ve accidentally put Lennon under even more intense analysis. Maybe it’s nothing, or maybe it’s a sign that the manager and squad are on entirely different wavelengths.
Either way, it’s not that good a sign.