After being unable to have a recognised striker in the starting line up against Ferencvaros, Celtic fans had questions over the fitness of their forwards. Some answers have emerged.
There was much talk of a lack of match fitness for the likely cover of Odsonne Edouard up front. Albian Ajeti has opened up in the Daily Record to his situation before Sunday’s match. The player has pledged to improve quickly. He did make a midweek appearance late in the game but was unable to start the match. With a couple of great strikers goals now in has last 2 league games, he’s off to a decent start.
We do all have to remember that one of the reasons he is now at Celtic is a dismal previous season at West Ham where his last start was way back in January. The disrupted season and then his being on holiday while transfer discussions were ongoing all point to a player who still needs a preseason for fitness.
Encouragingly Ajeti is working hard on his fitness programme:
“It has been a long time but ultimately I need to train hard and push myself to be ready to play 90 minutes again.
“It’s frustrating but that’s why I’m training really hard with the Celtic staff.”
For Celtic and Lennon, it’s great to get a quality striker into the club, the timing isn’t ideal and much sooner might have avoided the gap on Wednesday. But we have to remain positive and move forward. Ajeti at 23 has a great future. He’s a Swiss international and is off to join that squad in the international break, hopefully that continues the return to fitness rather than disrupt it. Neil Lennon did indicate after the Motherwell match that he has asked the Swiss set up to continue with fitness conditioning for Ajeti.
We know West Ham wasn’t the place for him, but successful performances at FC Basel in particular offer a lot more promise. That was where he linked up with Mohammed Elyounoussi creating goals and assists in their partnership, which we hope can be rekindled again. As does Ajeti:
“I know Moi from before, the way he plays and how he likes to attack the goal. He knows my runs inside the box too and we will have a good relationship together.”
We’ll see more of Ajeti over the coming weeks, he’ll be pleased with his goals at Dundee Utd and Sunday’s against Motherwell and he knows more will follow:
“I’m happy to have already scored my first goal and helped the team.
“I think there will be many more goals in the future when I am fitter.”
Lastly, in a difficult week and with criticism of the management team prominent, it was pleasing to see Ajeti feeling the relationship was strong, praising Lennon’s knowledge from the manager’s own playing experience:
“The gaffer gives me confidence and has helped me during a hard time so I can pay it back by playing well and doing my best to help him.
“I like his honesty, he’s straightforward in the way he treats players.“
That all makes sense of the need to get Ajeti fit and available for starting selection, other questions on the Celtic line up remain. Hopefully we’ll learn more soon and see some successful on the pitch performances. Although if this is just a half-fit Ajeti, we should be excited for what is to come when he is 100%.