Another season of Scottish football is underway and success for Celtic is an expectation, rather than a hope. The Hoops are overwhelming favourites to waltz to another Premiership title, while another treble is more than a mere possibility,
The true barometer of Celtic’s progress with be their performances in the Champions League, where competition to make it to the knockout stages is stiff.
Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers has admitted that his squad is weaker this season that it was last, with the vast majority of his summer transfer budget being put towards retaining striker Odsonne Edouard, who has joined in a club-record deal from Paris Saint-Germain after spending last season on loan in Glasgow’s East End.
While Rodgers may have misgivings about his squad as a whole, he is not short of striking options, having held on to Edouard, who will fight for game time with Moussa Dembele and Leigh Griffiths.
Our friends at Football Whispers investigate which of the trio should be considered Celtic’s top dog up front.
Success on multiple fronts is something Cetic have mastered in recent years, at least in domestic football. And Rodgers will attest that the key to high achievement in more than one competition over the course of a season is to build and maintain a strong, deep and versatile squad.
It’s important to have options in every position, ideally with players of differing styles competing for game time, allowing the manager to tailor his approach to the demands of each fixture.
As such, all three of Celtic’s strikers will see plenty of action this term. Indeed, in the Premiership alone last season, Edouard, Griffiths and Dembele all racked up more than 1000 minutes.
Yet, with Rodgers’ preference for a 4-3-3 set-up, there is room for only one central striker at a time. And each player will want to be considered the top choice for the position, the man selected for the very biggest games at home and in the Champions League.
If it comes down to sheer goal volume, and if he can rediscover his 2016/17 form, Dembele will be the unassailable first choice. The Frenchman drew admiring glances from Chelsea with his 32-goal haul in his first season at Celtic Park after joining from Fulham.
However, Dembele suffered a drop-off last season, with his goals-return halving to just 16 in all competitions. Having only recently turned 22, time is still on his side, and there is no reason to believe his struggles last term were anything more than the dreaded ‘second season syndrome’.
All three strikers scored nine league goals last term, with Dembele boasting the best minutes-per-goal average, having found the net every 118.4 minutes.
Griffiths was a close second, with a goal every 132.5 minutes, while Edouard trails behind with a strike every 160.8 minutes.
However, Edouard contributed the most assists of the trio, with seven to his name. His compatriot created only two league goals for colleagues and Griffiths only one.
Therefore Rodgers must decide what he wants from his first-choice centre-forward before deciding which striker to pick. If it’s ruthlessness in front of goal he prizes, Dembele is the man; if he needs a team player who can link and create, he should plump for Edouard.
By Ryan Baldi – follow Ryan and the rest of the team at Football Whispers on Twitter @FB_Whispers