Celtic clocked up their 10th successive league win on Saturday, but that hasn’t stopped some fans from becoming worried about their ruthlessness in front of goal.
Goals from Christopher Jullien and Odsonne Edouard were enough to see off Aberdeen and move them five points clear at the top of the Scottish Premiership. However, the win only arrived after a nervy 90 minutes where Celtic wasted chance after chance. They had 28 shots in total – 11 of them on target – compared to Aberdeen’s two shots and one on target. A total dominance not reflected in the final scoreline then which fits in with an emerging theme. The 2-0 win over Hearts last week featured a similar amount of missed opportunities.
We need to stop wasting our chances every game it’s the same issue
— Ryan (@ryan_7cfc) December 21, 2019
Just! Thank god. Very poor finishing
— Cuilcagh (@advisor_hustler) December 21, 2019
Another 3 points, another dominate performance……we just need to be more clinical in front of goal because you get the feeling one day we aren’t going to escape with all 3 points 🍀
— Ryan Henderson (@RyanHen39620181) December 21, 2019
Assistant manager John Kennedy conceded as much after the game, telling the BBC:
“It could have been a more emphatic win. Our last few games have been like that – the scoreline hasn’t reflected our chances created and quality of play. In terms of performance, we can’t ask for much more.”
Fine margins could be the difference
On the face of it, these complaints may seem ridiculous. Celtic have averaged 2.89 goals per game in the league this season and have scored 10 more goals than at the same stage last year. Three players are in double figures for goals in all competitions. The defeat to Livingston in October remains the only game this season in which the Hoops have failed to score.
But this is a season in which every goal may end up counting. For weeks, it was only Celtic’s minuscule advantage in that department which kept them ahead of Rangers. The two have been matching each other stride for stride in a repeat of the many title races in the 2000s. Twice in that decade, the pair went into the final game of the season level on points with goal difference as the only separator (SPFL). Celtic supporters don’t need to be reminded of the painful afternoon in May 2003 when they were pipped to the title by a solitary goal on a day of immense drama.
Celtic have had by far the most shots of any side in the league: 337 in total, but they have been less economical with them than Rangers. Despite having 44 fewer efforts, Steven Gerrard’s side has had five shots more on target. As things stand, Celtic have a slender advantage in the goal difference column having played a game more but will need to rediscover their ruthless streak if they are to maintain that.
January changes to provide competition for Edouard?
Edouard’s goal moved him to the top of the SPFL scoring charts, but he didn’t come away without criticism. His fellow Frenchman Jullien said that he should have had “five or six” and too often he was guilty of dallying in front of goal. His deadly ability in one-on-one’s makes up for that, but perhaps some competition for his starting spot wouldn’t go amiss.
Leigh Griffiths came on as a second-half substitute, but again he looked a far cry from his old self. Rediscovering the sharpness and instinctive finishing which illuminated Griffiths’ first few years at Parkhead is going to be tough. An extended run of first-team games is surely the best way of getting the 29-year old back in form, but there is too much at stake right now for Neil Lennon to drop Edouard and experiment with his forward line.
Despite Lennon’s claims that Griffiths is “too good” for a loan move, that might end up being the best option. The manager has already stated his intention to bring in another forward in January and links with Slovan Bratislava striker Andraz Sporar appear concrete. The Slovenian international has been in lethal form for his club this season. 20 goals in all competitions make it easy to see why Lennon is so impressed.
If he were to arrive, though, would that leave Griffiths as third choice? In that scenario, a loan move might ironically prove the best method to save his long-term future at the club.