Neil Lennon has reacted quickly to Celtic’s Old Firm debacle with Patryk Klimala set to be unveiled as their first January signing – but where will the new Bhoy fit in ahead of a massively important second half of the season?
The 21-year old Polish under-21 international is poised to arrive in a £3.5m deal from Jagiellonia Białystok. Tipped to be Robert Lewandowski’s long-term successor by former Hoops striker Maciej Zurawski, Klimala’s signing is a significant investment as Celtic look to fend off a resurgent Rangers. Their 2-1 win at Parkhead two weeks ago has given them real belief that this could be the year they end Celtic’s domestic dominance.
The quest for 10-in-a-row is in more peril now than ever and the board recognise this is time for action. One of Brendan Rodgers complaints that ultimately led to his departure was the lack of backing from the board in the transfer market. Peter Lawwell is keen to avoid a repeat of those mistakes. The Klimala deal will bring Celtic’s spending this season to over £15m (Transfermarkt).
Lennon gets the striker he desired
Lennon has been eager for the last couple of months to bring in extra competition for Odsonne Edouard. Leigh Griffiths and Vakoun Issouf Bayo are clearly not trusted by the manager. It wouldn’t be a surprise to now see one of those two leave this window. Lewis Morgan is also inching closer to the exit door which Scott Sinclair has already left through.
The weight of expectation on Edouard has been too much and has almost taken him to breaking point. The injury problems that kept him out of the starting line-up for the League Cup final made the kind of deal struck for Klimala an inevitability.
Signing for that amount of money will not guarantee Klimala a starting spot, however. Greg Taylor cost £3m in the summer but he has struggled to even make the matchday squad despite severe doubts over the other left back’s at Lennon’s disposal.
What Klimala may have, though, is an immediate chance to impress. Celtic’s first match back from their winter break is a Scottish Cup tie against struggling Championship side Partick Thistle. The Scottish Sun claimed that Lennon would consider changing his system to accommodate both Klimala and Edouard. This weekend’s game could be the perfect opportunity to experiment. With Ryan Christie’s injury and suspension keeping him out for at least a few weeks, there is a slot in Celtic’s front line which needs filling.
Changing a system which has worked so well for much of this season would be a major surprise. But if Klimala can hit the ground running then it will give Lennon a welcome problem to solve.
A new role for Edouard?
One thing we could see is Edouard dropping slightly deeper to play off the new Polish striker. The Frenchman regularly played that role many times in his first season at Parkhead when Moussa Dembele was still on the books. Edouard’s creativity and overall contribution to play is just as important as his goals. Playing deeper would give him more opportunity to utilise his excellent dribbling skills too.
The regular front three this season of Edouard, Christie and James Forrest have been superb. A total of 47 goals between them speaks for itself. But Lennon must be wary of the dangers of running these guys into the ground with so many important fixtures ahead. Forrest’s form especially suffered in the run-up to Christmas. Alongside Moi Elyounoussi, Mikey Johnston and maybe even Marian Shved, Klimala can help reduce the workload on those three, keeping them fresh for the bigger games.
The team is on course for yet another 60+ game season. The chances of European progression were raised after being paired with FC Copenhagen in the last 32. The quadruple treble remains a possibility with the League Cup already back in the trophy room. As the three-front fight continues, rotation will be necessary.
Klimala’s signing is also a preparation for the future. Edouard is surely destined for the top. Sooner rather than later an opportunity to move onto the next level will present itself to him. Hopefully, that is at least 18 months away but every player at Parkhead has his price. If the worst-case scenario happens and he leaves this summer, they will have a ready-made replacement already on the books.