The recent defeat to Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup has been a huge wake up call for the majority of Celtic fans. Before this game, Celtic had been on a fantastic run, winning the last 12 games in a row. What made this run even more impressive though was that Celtic hadn’t conceded a goal in these games, a run which enabled Fraser Forster to smash the clean sheet record at Celtic. In these 12 games Celtic also scored 34 goals. All seemed well until Aberdeen came to Celtic Park in the 5th round of the Scottish Cup. Aberdeen were the in form team behind Celtic and were tipped to be the team to break Celtic’s defensive wall.
I won’t go into details of the game, as we all know what happened, but the game finished 2-1 in favour of Aberdeen. The result has been a massive flaw in terms of Celtic’s season, having previously been knocked out of the League Cup in the 3rd round to Greenock Morton. It is the first time since 1981-82 that Celtic have been knocked out of both domestic Cup competitions before the quarter-final stage. It was also the first time that Celtic had lost a domestic home game after taking the lead since 2010, and more pressing it was the first time that they had lost a home Scottish Cup tie after opening the scoring since 1921.
For many fans now, the season for Celtic is all but over, having won the league months ago. In fact let’s be honest, the league is won before a ball is even kicked in the first game of the season. So, where do Celtic and Neil Lennon take it from here? The only incentive left for Celtic now is the unbeaten run in the league and the clean sheet run. So far, Celtic have played 24 games in the league, in which they have won 21 of them and drew 3. It is a record that is only bettered by one team in Europe at the moment, that team being Olympiakos. Celtic have a total tally of 66 points from a possible 72, whereas Olympiakos have taken an incredible 68 from 72.
As stated previously, the defeat to Aberdeen has been a wake up call. Before this winning run and clean sheet run started, fans weren’t happy at all at the performances that Celtic were putting in. They were struggling to score goals and it was very clear to see that a proven goal scorer was needed. Then two things started to happen, one being the winning streak and clean sheet run, the other being Kris Commons.
It goes without saying, if your team is winning every game in front of them and look unbeatable at the back; you’re going to be happy. Then if you’re team are scoring the goals, of course you’ll be happy. The unbeaten run and the goals of Kris Commons have ‘blinded’ fans to the problems that Celtic have. Kris Commons has been the light at the end of the tunnel in many games this season, and is so often the player to score the first goal in games. If you took Commons out of the team in the games that Celtic have played this season, they would be 8 points worse off.
Back to the point, while Commons keeps scoring, fans will not be looking at the striker situation. Out with Commons, Celtic’s current crop of strikers have struggled to score goals. Celtic have scored 57 goals this season in the league, 17 of them coming from Commons. Pukki has scored 4 goals in 17 league games, Stokes has scored 7 in 19 league games, Balde has scored 3 in 15 league games (although the majority of his appearances have been as a substitute) and Samaras has scored 4 goals in 13 league games (although striker is not his main position). So from the strikers this season (including Samaras for arguments sake), there have been a total of 18 goals scored. This shows that 22 goals have been scored by players from positions out with the striker role and not by Commons. What’s even more concerning is that these 4 strikers combined have scored just 1 more goal than Kris Commons has scored alone. Looking even further into this, if you divide the team into three (one Kris Commons, two the strikers and three the rest of the team), you see that it is the rest of the team that are scoring most of Celtic’s goals.
Comparing goals scored from last season to this season at the same point after 24 games played, you might think, well what’s the problem? By this stage last season in the league, Celtic had scored 52 goals, whereas this season they have scored 57 goals, showing that we are 5 goals better off. Last season Celtic scored a total of 92 league goals, which in the current season they are 35 goals away from. There are still 14 games to play this season, so this is more than reachable with on fire Kris Commons in the team.
But the problem is there, the striker situation is clear for all who follow the club to see. The current group of strikers aren’t main strikers and they cannot be replied upon to win a game. The striker problem has been staring Celtic in the face since January 2013. This was at a time when Gary Hooper was at the club, but from January 2013 onwards, his mind was set on a move to England. He wasn’t replaced and he still hasn’t been replaced. Hooper is exactly the player we need back at Celtic, the player who is deadly in the opposition’s box. One clear sight on goal and Hooper will punish you; he will score 9 times out of 10. Which striker at Celtic can you say will do that? The answer is none.
Before this season kicked off, Celtic had lost the spine of their team in Kelvin Wilson, Victor Wanyama and Gary Hooper. All three players were vital. This season is seen as a transitional one, after losing these three key players. Basically Celtic were starting from scratch, trying to replace the spine. Without doubt, we have replaced Kelvin Wilson in Virgil Van Dijk. Victor Wanyama’s replacement hasn’t really came to light as of yet, but players such as Nir Biton have been singled out to do so. But then there’s the tip of the spine, Gary Hooper, who just hasn’t been replaced. January additions in Leigh Griffiths and Holmbert Fridjonsson I won’t comment on as of yet, but I do hope one of them can bring some goals to the team. A striker with a proven goal scoring record is absolutely vital in the summer.