Celtic analysis: Revitalised Mohamed Elyounoussi looks like a man on a mission
Attacker issues timely reminder of his talents to Neil Lennon
Celtic players of a certain vintage might have had memories stirred as they watched their old club contest a European tie with the shouts of those on the pitch echoing around empty stands.
The strangeness of this pandemic age may have extended to Parkhead side starting a continental campaign behind closed doors for the first time. The imperative was to ensure it did not become the second time they exited an European competition in so ghostly an environment.
The unwanted first came back in 1985, in the now defunct Cup-Winners’ Cup. Then, as a consequence of supporter misbehaviour across a tie engulfed with enmity against Rapid Vienna the previous season, Uefa ordered that they play the home return leg of their first round meeting with Atletico Madrid at a deserted Celtic Park.
There any similarities between last night and that day in October 1985 end. The valiant effort of securing a 1-1 draw in the Spanish capital 35 years ago counted for nothing as the absence of a home crowd willing them on proved a telling factor as they slumped to a 2-1 defeat in their own backyard.
Frankly, last night Neil Lennon’s men could have the 60,000 Icelanders braying at them, with everyone of them pointing pen lasers in their eyes, and you would imagine they would still have taken KR Reykjavik to the cleaners.
“As poor a side as I have seen in a long, long time,” John Hartson said during the Premier Sports coverage.
In fairness to Celtic, the crispness and slickness of their early play exposed every one of their visitors’ myriad deficiencies.
They were patently determined to put behind them both their lumpen display at Kilmarnock and the league hiatus caused by Boli Bolingoli’s lunacy that followed it.
Moreover, in Mohamed Elyounoussi they had a man on a mission to make a pitch.
Albian Ajeti, Celtic’s new £5 million striker, watched from the bench as his former Basel team-mate set out dismantling KR with brio.Elyounoussi kicked off the cuffing with a defly executed sixth-minute opener, finishing with a low shot from close range. He finished things off with his second and Celtic’s sixth
Ajeti may have started on the bench, only appearing once Odsonne Edouard and constructed a 70th minute fifth goal with dazzling daintiness. However, the Swiss forward’s very presence at the club has raised questions as to where Elyounoussi will fit in. There appears an acceptance that Lennon will switch from his current default of 4-2-3-1 to a 3-5-2 in order that he can unleash Edouard and Ajeti in tandem on opponents.
As well as negating the deployment of straight-out wingers, which Elyounoussi really isn’t, the system change brings into play wing-backs, which Elyounoussi really isn’t either.
The Norwegian international is an attacker who can provide invention and an injection of pace.
If it transpires that there are only three midfield slots in a 3-5-2 he is vying for, then the 26-year-old would seem a natural fit for the No 10 role that was once the preserve of the now peripheral Tom Rogic and is effectively in the possession of Ryan Christie currently.
There was no battle for Celtic in easing past Reykjavik last night. Instead, the walkover only highlighted the fierce internal battles to come for those in Celtic’s engine room.
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