True or False – Lennon |Ajer |Europe |Edouard

In this Cynic classic, we give a talented panel a list of 4 statements and ask their expert (or not) opinions to determine whether the statement is, in fact, true or false. I’m Stephen Russell (@SJRussell23) and debating this week we have Liam Divers (@LDivers91), Matt Evans (@SkylandsCSC), Ronan Kearney (@Kearney1085) and Alex Papadopoulos (AlexPapa67)!

Lennon’s football is more enjoyable to watch than Rodgers’

DIVERS: False. Caveat: I am a massive shitebag. Okay? Good, we can continue! Rodgers’ brand of possession heavy, sometimes risk averse football could at times be painful to watch. Grinding out 1 or 2 goal wins, with 86% possession and no shots conceded isn’t always going to get arses off seats. But judging by the way we defended on Tuesday (against Cluj) and Lennon’s tendency for gung ho football, I’d rather have arses on seats enjoying a comfortable victory than in a constantly clenched state watching us conceded 4 but score 5.So, while possession heavy football may send you to sleep, it’s a step up from scatterball that Lennon will subject us to. Defensively we are not as sound under Lennon as we were under Rodgers and that won’t suit the high intensity, constantly attacking style of Lennon.

EVANS: False. And that goes for the football during both of Lennon’s tenures. The current version pays off its attacking dividends on poorer sides but is far too easily found out by better teams. There seems to be no coherent system or set of tactics that define the current squad’s style beyond dusty footballing cliches that were outdated 15 years ago. Rodgers’ sides were eventually found out as well, but you knew that at least the managerial quality was in place. He wasn’t always successful at it but Rodgers was capable of making changes to positively affect outcomes, whereas Lennon seems to rely on luck and effort. Our current style lacks tempo, control and composure and it is not a pretty watch.

KEARNEY: True. 12 league goals in two games. Multiple different scorers. I know that two league games is not a fantastic sample size but the signs are good so far. Under Rodgers, especially in seasons 2 and 3, we had tended to wear teams down by passing around them, retaining huge amounts of possession without smashing in goals. Winning got boring pretty quickly – talk about a champagne problem! Under Lennon this season, we look to have an extra verve to our play – Christie is key to this. His energy seems to permeate through to the rest of the team resulting in the types of beatings dished out to St Johnstone and Motherwell so far. 

PAPADOPOULOS: False. Much as it is easy to hold a grudge against Rodgers, and that is completely justified, it is difficult to say Celtic didn’t play excellent football under him at times. I think what it comes down to is how much the result makes you enjoy the football. For me, I don’t have a problem with passing from side to side and trusting the process if it means wins are notched up, because I don’t get any enjoyment from seeing Celtic lose. Lennon’s football might ‘bring back the thunder’, however there is no plan B when faced with adversity, and sometimes not even a plan A.

Verdict: True 1 – 3 False. I think the sometimes tedious games towards the end of Rodgers’ tenure can colour how we see his playing style. In the Invincibles season, we really did play some scintillating football.

Should situations become dire, Ajer can play RB this season

DIVERS: True. It’s the end of a big night out and you have just spent your last tenner on a pizza box filled with kebab meat. It’s so big they’re taping the sides down in the shop just to keep the lid on it. Then you realise you still have to get home and that tenner was your fare. The takeaway are definitely not going to take it back from you. Now you’re begging folk in the street for a tenner to get home, offering them what is now lukewarm kebab meat and some soggy chips. It’s awkward for you, for them, for anyone watching. It’s a last resort and absolutely nobody is enjoying this. That’s playing Ajer at right back. 

It’s not pretty and it’s categorically not what you signed up for, but here we are and you just need to get on with it. Poor decisions have led you down this path and now you’re sitting on the pavement trying to flog kebab meat. Or rather, you’ve spectacularly mismanaged your player recruitment and you’re now playing your best centre half at right back and hoping that it will all work out. Covered in spicy sauce.

EVANS: True. Mostly because I really think Kris Ajer could play in any position on the park. He would have to watch a lot of video of Mikael Lustig and try to model himself after that type of player, who is defensively responsible but capable of forays forward. Ajer’s goal against Motherwell was reminiscent of some of the positions Lustig would take up. Let’s all remember that Ajer’s preferred position isn’t even center-half, when he signed with Celtic he mentioned he feels he is better as a #6 or #8!

KEARNEY: True. Around 12:20pm on Saturday last, I text into the Cynic WhatsApp group saying the worst possible thing with Ajer scoring is that Lawwell could look at it thinking “why should we buy another right back when Ajer is capable of that?” Ajer should play right back this season on the occasion where our first two choices are injured or suspended and only then. It’s great to know that the big man can go forward and score goals like he did but he is not a right back. He is a centre back, in the middle, dominating life. Ajer can play right back this season? True. Ajer should play right back this season? False. 

PAPADOPOULOS: False. It would be a crime if Ajer was to be seen as a valid backup fullback. Elhamed has shown that he is more than competent enough to be very decent understudy to a first choice RB. If the club does not invest in a first choice, then that is just another thing to add to the long list of faults we can attribute to the current board.

Verdict: True 3 – 1 False. Our panel seem to agree that, while everyone’s favourite Norwegian (sorry, Christian!) is more than competent playing wherever we tell him to, it’s sheer negligence to be forced into playing him elsewhere.

Europa League football before Christmas is a failure for Celtic

DIVERS: True. European football is great and should be savoured at all costs, and we should be aiming to be make a real mark on the Europa League now. The issue we have is that we are a Europa League level club, who talk like a Champions League club, pay wages like a Champions League club, charge for tickets like a Champions League club  yet aren’t performing like one. There’s a myriad of reasons behind this and I’m sure many other articles and podcasts will go into it in greater detail, but as it stands we are a club who are aiming at the Champions League, performing at a Europa League level and not making a mark on either. So ultimately it is a failure, however if we’re in it after Christmas, that’s a different story…

EVANS: True. And the fact that it’s Thursday morning and I’m still royally pissed off from Tuesday night underscores the magnitude of the failure to even achieve the qualifier play-offs, which is the absolute minimum requirement. This was a massive and comprehensive failure. Now, Celtic find themselves having to navigate a tricky playoff just to even make it into the Europa League, which guarantees us barely any money at all. We are also guaranteed shite Sunday domestic matches, and yet another year where Celtic fail to convince anyone in Europe that we are still a “big club” and our stadium is one which opponents fear. All of this adds up to several loud failure klaxons going off around Parkhead, but at least they’re accompanied by an expensive and lavish light show.

KEARNEY: False. As much as I want us to be in the Champions League every year, I think we need to get realistic as to the expectations we have when it comes to European football. Look at the teams already knocked out of the Champions League qualifiers, some with plenty of Champions League experience. Beat Cluj and we advance to a shootout with Slavia Prague. Last year, Prague got through their Europa League group and were narrowly beaten by Chelsea in the last 8 of the tournament. If the choice is getting to the Champions League and hoping we can pick up a point or two, or play Europa League football where we can be competitive, reach the last 32 and go from there, the Europa League may be a good route to go in order to allow our young team get more European experience and build from that. 

PAPADOPOULOS: False. Of course, we all want to be part of the Champions League, the spotlight it puts you in and the money that it brings too. The problem Celtic face is one of levels. They are a team that could be considered ‘too good’ for the domestic competition, yet not able to make the step up to European glory. The nature of contemporary European football means that the Europa League can throw groups as tough as those in the CL the way of the Scottish Champions, and so the company is not noticeably worse in the EL.

Verdict: True 2 – 2 False. Our expectations of where we should be are beginning to be tainted by the unconvincing qualifying campaigns we’re being regularly subjected to. If we want to be a Champions League club, we need to be winning these ties comfortably.

Edouard is as talented an attacker as Dembele was in his time at Celtic

DIVERS: True. There’s differences between the two, that’s clear to see. Dembele was more of a traditional striker who liked to run in behind back lines and make near post runs. Edouard likes to drop a bit deeper and run at the opposition, committing men and bringing others into the game. What they both share, however, is a creative spark that can win games for you singlehandedly and a knack for delivering in clutch moments. Eddie will move on like Dembele (hopefully in better circumstances) and will continue to develop just as exponentially as Moussa has, of that I have no doubt. I just wish we had seen more of them together if I’m perfectly honest. Remember that goal against Hearts at home where they linked up? Tasty.

EVANS: False. Odsonne Edouard is extremely talented, and the argument can be made for him as the second-best Celtic forward since the days of Henrik Larsson. However, Moussa Dembele had just a bit more in his locker in terms of footballing talent, and I also think that he was and still is a more ruthless and focused striker. Both of them seem to be able to switch on a different level of talent when it was needed most, in derbies, Cup ties, or away to Dundee needing a win. In the end, head-to-head I think Dembele came to Celtic as a more complete player (and his current success at Lyon illustrates his ability to easily move up a level), whereas Edouard has had a lot of learning on the job to do.

KEARNEY: True. Dembele scored some big goals for Celtic in his all too short time at the club. The hat trick v Rangers, the back-heeled winner in the league cup semi final, goals v Man City and away in Monchengladbach. When he left us, it looked like we would struggle to replace not only his goals, but his ice-cold demeanour in front of goal. However, looking back at our 3-2 victory at Ibrox, it may not have been just the ball that Dembers passed to Edouard. Eddy has scored huge goals of his own v Rangers, the winner in the first game post-Rat, goals in Europe and of course the cup final winner. He is proving to be every bit as good as Dembele was at Celtic – let’s just hope he sticks around a lot longer than his compatriot.

PAPADOPOULOS: True. Absolutely. Whilst the deux hommes francaisare both very different players and so not truly comparable, they are both so good at football it makes me a little bit giddy with excitement just to think about it. Both of them scored 20+ goals in the premiership in the past couple full seasons and have had a huge impact on Celtic’s Double treble. I would put money on them both going onto huge things. 

Verdict: True 3 – 1 False. While Dembele absolutely was an unbelievable striker, Edouard’s talent is unquestionable. With the players having varying playing styles, Edouard liking the ball deep in the left half space to dribble at the defence, it’s difficult to compare.

If you have any statements that you’d like to put to our future panels, let us know in the comments below, on the Patreon app or alternatively on Twitter @90MinuteCynic or @SJRussell23. Thanks for reading.

Despite growing up, and now studying, in England, Celtic have always been a huge part of my life. I first watched the team with my dad; I fell in love and then there was no turning back. Torn between a statistically enhanced footballing style and a good, old-fashioned get-it-in-the-mixer-and-score style.

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