For Daniel Arzani, it has not been an ideal start to the season. The 19-year-old, who joined Celtic on loan from Manchester City in the summer, is yet to appear for his new side. It has been a time of frustration and, as yet, there is little sign of that changing.
Few at Celtic doubt Arzani’s talent. He is naturally gifted, technically impressive and can glide past defenders on either wing. Brendan Rodgers, though, appears to have questions over Arzani’s maturity. He is, Rodgers insists, not yet ready to break into the first team but our friends at Football Whispers look at whether the Bhoys boss should re-consider his stance.
Many onlookers are bemused by the apparent reluctance to give the teenager an opportunity. Celtic would surely not have brought Arzani in on a two-year loan deal if they did not envisage a place for him in the team. But, so far, he has been restricted to two appearances for the academy side.
“Something’s gone wrong – very, very wrong there,” said former Australian international Robbie Slater in a recent interview with Fox Sports. Arzani has been so underused that a recent report in The World Game claimed that Manchester City would recall him.
Celtic have since denied this, although not with the conviction that would suggest the Australian is soon to get his chance. Perhaps, though, Rodgers should cast aside his doubts and turn to Arzani. He may be raw and inexperienced, still learning at a new club and in a new division, but he cannot develop if he is repeatedly left out.
And Arzani might offer something different, too. Celtic, aside from their 6-0 thrashing of St. Johnstone in their last outing, have hardly been prolific this season. There has often been an evident lack of creativity: they had scored only seven goals in seven Scottish Premiership games before beating St. Johnstone.
Some refreshment in attacking areas, then, might be conducive. Arzani could provide it. For Melbourne City last season, he was a constant threat for the opposition. Playing predominantly on the right, he averaged 18.37 dribbles per game, of which 66 per cent were successful. By comparison, James Forrest averages 8.44 per game from wide areas this season.
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It is an indication of Arzani’s directness. He is a player who looks to drive at opposition defenders whenever possible: an average of 4.68 progressive runs per game is further evidence of that.
Arzani’s creativity, too, is clear to see. He set up 1.91 shots per 90 minutes last season and averaged just under four crosses a game (41.1 per cent successful). It is interesting to compare this with Forrest, who has, on average, laid on 1.77 shots for teammates this season, and crossed the ball at a rate of 3.21 per game (30.5 per cent successful).
Perhaps, then, Arzani’s traits would be well-suited to those games, of which there have been several this season when Celtic struggle to break down stubborn opposition. Even his introduction as a substitute on occasion could prove effective, particularly late in games when opponents are tiring and games can be stretched.
He has certainly proved impactful on the international stage. Arzani was introduced as a substitute during Australia’s 4-0 victory over Kuwait earlier this week and impressed. He very nearly created a goal immediately after entering the pitch, jinking past Kuwait’s defenders before putting in a dangerous cross that found its way into the arms of the goalkeeper. And soon after he fired a powerful shot just over the bar.
Arzani impressed, as he has often for the Socceroos, although it remains to be seen whether this cameo will be enough to convince Rodgers that he is good enough to feature for Celtic.
“This is a young player who burst onto the scene back home and is regarded as a talent,” said Rodgers when questioned about Arzani last month. “But he is very new into his life as a professional. It’s the adaptation to a new country, new club, new football. It’s just time. He’s a talented young player and the idea with a talented young player is to go from a talent to a professional. Over the coming years, we will see if he has the commitment to go with the quality he has.”
Now, perhaps more than ever, Arzani’s commitment is being tested. The next few weeks could be crucial for a player who no doubt wants to prove that he is more than just future potential.
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