The next steps for Liel Abada and his exceptional instincts at Celtic
Celtic’s victory over Ross County in Dingwall yesterday felt like a statement of intent for the champions.
Without ever truly being at their best, it was a game they largely controlled, and even after Alex Iacovitti’s equaliser on the hour, it never felt like a game in which Celtic wouldn’t find a way to win, such was their dominance.
Whilst the game will likely be more remembered for Moritz Jenz’s winner on his debut or Jota’s spectacular hat-trick of assists, it also marked Liel Abada’s first goal of the season, his 16th for Celtic overall.
The County game reflected Abada’s Celtic career so far in that his involvement was defined by a single moment of the utmost quality – his finish to put the game beyond the Staggies in injury time.
The young Israeli can be peripheral in games, and is less involved in build-up than fellow forwards Kyogo, Maeda and Jota, but 15 goals in his debut season marks a pretty remarkable return for the 20-year-old.
His knack of timing back runs towards the back post is an exceptionally useful attribute for a wide forward – something that’s been reflected in his sporadic appearances through the middle when Celtic have been short of recognised strikers.
It was this instinctive ability that brought two of the most memorable moments of last season within the space of week, Abada’s 90th-minute winner over Dundee United, followed up by his clincher in the 3-0 Glasgow derby demolition over Rangers.
Whilst Postecoglou clearly favours system players – those whose involvement is effectively constant, with a heavy contribution to build up – Abada’s ability to influence game in single moments, in snapshots across 90 minutes, should not be undervalued.
A young star with time on his hands
In all likelihood, Abada won’t be first choice for most of the season, but this shouldn’t be a matter of concern for him, or Celtic.
Jota has kicked off this campaign with some of the best form of his Celtic career so far and Maeda’s suitability to Postecoglou’s system and elite pressing ability makes him an easy pick, too.
Abada will likely play considerably less football this time round with far less burden on Celtic’s forwards individually, and rightly so, Celtic of all clubs shouldn’t need reminded of the downsides of overusing players in their formative years after Kieran Tierney’s final season in Scotland and subsequent injury hell at Arsenal.
For the young Israeli, this season he can focus on broadening his own game, becoming a player who contributes more a wider system, than one who can create individual moments as a result of it.
He has plenty scope to develop and will undoubtedly continue to do so under Postecoglou, and Abada should be in no rush because he’s got all the time in the world.
In other news: The solution to Saturday’s Celtic broadcast farce