Even as Celtic cruised to a 5-0 victory at home to Brechin City in the Scottish Cup, there was still a feeling of frustration among the home faithful. Perhaps not with the result or performance but with Brendan Rodgers’ team selection. More specifically the inclusion of Odsonne Edouard ahead of Moussa Dembele.
Celtic’s striker situation has been strange this term. Dembele and Leigh Griffiths were always going to be vying for the sole no.9 role but Edouard was signed to bolster the attack as the Hoops aimed to compete on four fronts. The constant chopping and changing to give all three game time has resulted in the trio suffering from a lack of consistency and goals.
The fact that Edouard played the entire 90 minutes and notched the Bhoys’ fifth goal of the afternoon against Brechin suggests Rodgers’ decision was vindicated. But the youngster’s performance still left a lot to be desired. Rodgers also pointed out that Dembele is distracted by the rumours linking him with a move to the Premier League. “It’s clear that he has probably not been quite the same as what he has been for probably over a year or so,” he said.
But in order to see the best version of Dembele, he has to be playing consistently just like he was last term. The fear among Celtic fans is that none of the strikers will hit top form if they are constantly in and out of the side. With some massive games around the corner, including the Europa League tie with Zenit St.Petersburg, that’s not something the Hoops can afford.
What this rotation has given us, though, is the chance to judge Edouard more fairly. Celtic have the option to sign the French forward at the end of the season for £7 million from Paris Saint-Germain. If they were to take up that option, Edouard would become the most expensive player in the club’s history. That is a risk even if the club were to bag between £12 and £20 million for Dembele as some reports suggest.
Rodgers likes Edouard but not to the extent where he’s desperate to get a permanent deal done as soon as possible. “I will just assess it at the end of the season. I have been really impressed by him and he is getting better and better each week. He works very hard for the team and he’s the type of performer I like. I know he is really enjoying it but there is no rush to commit on either side now.”
Splashing £7 million on a raw striker would be something unusual for a Scottish club. Based on what we’ve seen so far the club would be better off spending that sort of money more wisely on an established and complete forward. The young Frenchman has five goals in a Hoops jersey in 14 appearances which is a respectable yet hardly eye-catching return. Generally, his game needs a lot of work if he’s to become the polished centre-forward supporters demand at this club.
Perhaps Rodgers’ plan is to have Edouard replace his compatriot Dembele but there’s a big difference between the two. The latter is physically and technically better with a greater understanding of the game and looks ready to make the next step in his career. Edouard, meanwhile, still lacks that maturity and it’s hard to foresee Celtic making a massive profit on the youngster in a few years.
The most logical step would be to extend Edouard’s loan by a further season in the summer. It’s a move that is likely to suit all parties seeing as there little chance of of the youngster getting involved at PSG. And it would give him the chance to continue honing his skills with guaranteed game time if Dembele departs. Edouard’s still got a lot of convincing to do before he can be considered Celtic class.