Vakoun Issouf Bayo gives next Celtic manager pause for thought

By Euan Davidson

May 13, 2021

It’s been a season of fits and starts for Celtic loanee Vakoun Issouf Bayo at Toulouse.

We’ve argued back and forth on here about the tall Ivorian striker. He looked an awkward fit in the Hoops; a physical target man, Bayo’s game seemed out of step with the tactical demands of the team. While we could gauge he was an aerial threat, we didn’t know much about him. He was unable to shine for Celtic, aside from a game against Hearts [Herald], in which he was unlucky not to be awarded a brace.

So, a loan seemed like the right move to properly assess his talents, and it’s gone… well it’s gone ok. Bayo has now mustered 12 goals in 33 outings [Transfmarkt], grabbing a double last night against Pau. Now, let’s talk about these goals, because they’re both really good.

His first shows some real promise. Celtic have aimed to press high up the pitch at times this season, and look no further for a good example of that working. Bayo stares down the Pau goalkeeper, nicking the ball away before slotting it home with consummate ease.

The second is equally tantalising. Celtic aren’t exactly prolific at taking opportunities from set-pieces, but Bayo, somehow left unmarked, is given free roam to head it home. Even in a relatively low-stakes affair like this, it’s food for thought for the next Bhoys boss; is the Ivorian worth another go?

Vakoun Bayo in Celtic training / (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group via Getty Images)

Is it time to review Vakoun Issouf Bayo and his Celtic chances?

Previously, I’ve argued we’re as well cutting our losses on the Ivorian striker, if it helps to fund the rebuild. That’s harsh, obviously, because I wouldn’t get into your five-a-side team, so who am I to talk? But honestly, his playing style and middling goal return in the second tier of French football gave me little hope for the guy.

It would be revisionist to say that a late-season dead-rubber for Toulouse has changed my mind entirely. Perhaps he still doesn’t have the attributes required for Celtic, and there’s zero shame in that, by the way. However, it’s the nature of his goals that will leave plenty at the club, and in the support, nodding appreciatively.

Pressing is a key tenet of the modern game, and with Eddie Howe likely to be in soon, pressing from the front is a pretty key skill. Bayo’s energy and nous in sniffing out the opportunity for his first is an example of defending from the front.

Signed surely as a sort of Plan B, with more directness to his game than his striking competitors at Celtic, his second will also have coaches wondering if he’s worth another go. It was as simple a goal as it gets, but so often this season, the Bhoys haven’t taken chances from set pieces. Just 19% of our goals this season have come from dead ball situations [WhoScored?], despite having so many tall players who can head a ball, and the set-piece specialists to deliver the right cross.

So, it’s not to say that “wow, Vakoun Issouf Bayo is a guaranteed starter next season!”. Far from it, but at the very least, he’ll have given the club something to think about. And that, my friends, is one of the primary reasons to send players out on loan in the first place.

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