The big improvement Chris Jullien needs to make on Celtic return
There’s something exciting about the prospect of Christopher Jullien making his long-awaited return from injury.
The towering Frenchman has overcome the knee injury which has kept him out of action for over a year. The knock was a damaging blow to his Celtic career as well as our own title aspirations last season.
This season, the Hoops have been watching a fairly formidable partnership develop between Cameron Carter-Vickers and Carl Starfelt. But whilst there have been promising signs there, concerns still remain about the latter’s overall ability.
Fortunately, Ange Postecoglou has confirmed that Jullien’s injury hell appears to be over [Scottish Sun]. Indeed, whether he returns to the squad to face Hibernian on January 17 remains to be seen. But according to the manager, he should indeed be available.
However, there was one real issue that was plaguing Jullien even before his injury knock. An issue that appears to have generally been forgotten about as excitement grows over the Frenchman’s return. This being his ability to use his physicality and boss the more powerful centre-backs in Scottish football.
Jullien had a rough time of things when he struggled against Lyndon Dykes in the 2019/20 campaign. He also struggled to dominate the likes of Marios Ogboe, Sam Cosgrove, and Nicke Kabamba as teams looked to exploit this particular weakness.
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Christopher Jullien needs to return a stronger, more authoritive Celtic centre-back
Jullien is a fine footballer. Technically he’s extremely gifted and has the ability to be a danger in both boxes. However, for a man of his height and physicality, he should be bossing everyone he comes up against in Scotland.
That wasn’t the case before his injury woes at the tail-end of 2020. It was still an area of his game that needed some improvement. Jullien was on a nice run of clean sheets before his knee ligament damage. But the frailties were still showing, such as the 1-1 draw with Kilmarnock last August in which he gave away a penalty and nearly cost us all 3 at the death as he failed to deal with Kabamba.
When Jullien returns, there will be plenty of challenges ahead of him. Plenty of opponents who will be looking to target him and see if his lack of aggression is still present.
For it was never a lack of muscle or power when it came to Jullien’s defending. It was more to do with the fact he just wasn’t aggressive enough. Even when he sparked back into form, being overpowered in an aerial duel or a 50/50 was never too far around the corner.
Hopefully, his time in the gym has seen to that particular issue. Celtic can’t afford to have him return and show the old frailties of before. We aren’t getting the perfect centre-back when Jullien returns, and that’s something we must be prepared for.
But hopefully the former Toulouse star has bulked himself up and is ready to be a dominant force in Scottish football. He has the physical presence and the talent to be just that. It’s time for him to show it.