Following the recent news that Odsonne Edouard has joined up with player agency Stellar Football Ltd, Celtic may have to delve back into the transfer market for another striker come the summertime.
Edouard joins fellow highly rated countryman Edouardo Camavinga, alongisde Jack Grealish, Gareth Bale, and former Celtic team-mate Kieran Tierney in Stellar Football Ltd’s impressive roster.
The Parkhead side won’t be short of strikers when the time comes for Edouard to move on. However, the reliability of those remaining is the questioning factor. Leigh Griffiths, who Neil Lennon claimed was ‘overweight’ and didn’t travel to France with Celtic in July is a certainty to get goals, yes, but having seemingly let Celtic down so frequently, the chances that he will lead the line again are very slim.
Albian Ajeti is joint-eighth in the list of the highest transfer fees paid from Celtic to acquire a player. The ex-Basel and West Ham striker was seen as somewhat of a marquee signing in the summer, after Celtic shelled out £4.5 million for the Swiss International. Ajeti started the season off very well indeed, with an impressive 5 goals in 6 league fixtures – including a late winner against Dundee United – he seemed to be instantly worth the investment. Since then however, he hasn’t scored a single goal. His last coming in September, a fantastic strike against Hibernian in a 3-0 win, but his drop off in form has been indicative of Celtic’s struggles this season.
Lastly, we have Vakoun Issouf Bayo and Patryk Klimala. It would come as a surprise for many to see Bayo in a green and white hooped shirt again. Currently on loan to Toulouse, the Ivorian has 2 goals in 12, and it doesn’t look like there’s a place for him in the Celtic side upon return. Klimala on the other hand, has shown various signs of promise and will believe that he can stake a claim to get more minutes not only next season, but this season too. He may need coached a little more to brush up on what seems like a lot of raw talent, but Klimala has now left Celtic too.
Having analysed the current striking situation at Celtic, here are five players that I believe Celtic should be looking at to bolster their attacking options next season:
No.1 – Jamal Lowe (Swansea)
Jamal Lowe has been crucial to Swansea in their push for promotion to the English Premier League this season. The Englishman has bagged 8 goals in 23 league appearance so far this season, and has looked very impressive over the last two months.
The former Celtic target can play either side of the attack, as well as the centre-forward role that has seen him flourish in recent times (7 goals in 19 appearances as striker). Standing at 6ft tall, Lowe provides an excellent aerial threat yet his pace and agility is unaffected. Playing primarily on the right side of the attack in his Portsmouth days, he would often drive into dangerous areas and finish with excellent technique across the face of goal.
Lowe is currently outperforming his expected goals (xG) for the season which is at 7.03, if he sustains this throughout the season, he should roughly finish the season with 18 goals. Not a bad tally if the current trend is anything to go by. One cause for concern however, could be his current lack of assists. This season, Lowe hasn’t managed to assist any goals for his teammates, but allowances can be made for adjusting to a new position. In years gone by for Lowe, assisting has been one of his key attributes, with an average of 7.66 assists per season since 17/18 (his breakthrough season).
The 26 year old still has two and a half years left on his contract, but if The Swans fail in their push for promotion this season, the attacker may feel he needs a fresh start. With a rebuild looking likely for Celtic and the opportunity to play European football, it may be a great destination for him.
No.2 – Ike Ugbo (Cercle Brugge/Chelsea)
Ike Ugbo is just one of a number of players who have came through the youth ranks at Chelsea, but have been sent out to various clubs on loan.
At 22 years of age, Ugbo is currently at his 5th consecutive club on yet another loan deal – and he’s smashing it. With 10 goals in 18 Belgian First Division games this season, Ugbo has been attracting a lot of interest from clubs in the English Championship. This campaign, the striker has faced Celtic’s Jack Hendry (on loan to Oostende) and plays in the same team as former Rangers defender, David Bates.
Last season, Ugbo bagged himself 13 goals in 28 games in the Dutch 2nd Division, and he is showing that season by season he can take his game to the next level.
You’ll find Ugbo in and around the six yard box. Although he scores what may seem to be ‘poachers goals’, the Englishman is constantly running, and looking to play on the shoulder of the last defender which his pace allows him to do. Impressively, he is averaging a goal every 0.26 shots he takes, which is effectively one goal in every four shots. Even more impressive than that, is that he is expected to score with every 0.64 shots on target. According to xG, he doesn’t just shoot for the sake of it.
With his contract set to expire in Summer 2022, Celtic could find themselves with the chance to bring Ugbo to the club on a relatively cheap deal. He would definitely bring goals to the team, and fits in line with Celtic’s recruitment strategy of buying to make a profit within a few years. Whether or not he can make the jump to European Football, remains to be seen.
No.3 – Armando Broja (Vitesse/Chelsea)
Armando Broja is not long from becoming a household name amongst football fans. Another Chelsea youth talent, (currently out on loan at Vitesse) has already made one Premier League appearance, coming on as a late substitute to replace Olivier Giroud in March 2020.
The Albanian has bagged himself 5 goals in 12 games in the Eredivisie this season, and is earning a lot of plaudits along the way. Broja stands at 6ft 3, yet possesses a brilliant mix of pace, strength, power, dribbling and finishing. He is an early development of the ‘complete striker’.
Now not to get too carried away, it is worth noting that although Broja’s contract expires in the Summer of 2022, Chelsea will very likely offer him a new deal. Having played in the aforementioned Premier League fixture, albeit for four minutes, the 19 year-old is staking a claim to be in the long-term plans of The Blues.
What this does mean for Celtic though is that there may be another option to bring Broja in on loan next season, as history would suggest that Chelsea aren’t happy with a player only having one loan spell before breaking into the first team. Celtic would be a better fit for Broja if that were to be the case next season, playing in front of (hopefully) 60,000 fans and again the European Football factor which often draws young players to Parkhead.
Time will tell with Broja however, as it seems ever more likely that Olivier Giroud will be departing London for Turin to join Juventus, maybe his time will come sooner rather than later. Keep your eye on it.
No.4 – Kevin Nisbet (Hibernian FC)
Joint top scorer of the Scottish Premiership this season, Kevin Nisbet has been firing on all cylinders for Jack Ross’ Hibernian. Nisbet got his move to the Hibees after two incredible seasons back-to-back with Raith Rovers and Dunfermline Athletic.
With Raith Rovers, Nisbet scored a spectacular 29 goals in 34 Scottish League One games, adding 4 assists into the mix. Following that season, Scottish Championship side Dunfermline secured his services where he played 25 league games – scoring 18 goals and grabbing 3 assists – not to mention 5 goals in as many Betfred Cup appearances too.
In the aforementioned season, he rivaled Dundee United’s Lawrence Shankland for the top goalscorer, but Shankland ran away with it in the end, with 24 goals in comparison to Nisbet’s 18. As disappointed as I’m sure Nisbet would have been about this, it has been the Hibs man who has stepped up to the plate in the Scottish Premiership. So far, the striker has 11 goals in 21 matches, averaging 0.55 goals/game, not to mention 4 assists – taking his goal contributions to 15 in 21 matches.
The 23 year-old has been highly impressive for Hibs in the current campaign, and seems to be only getting better with each passing season. His key qualities include his quick acceleration, his natural instincts in the box and the ability to break defensive lines – not to mention his experiences in Scottish Football too, which can only be a good thing for a Celtic target.
I would be very surprised if this was the last we heard of the Nisbet x Celtic links, as I’m sure his goal-scoring run will continue as the season goes on. His late equaliser at Celtic Park in their 1-1 draw on Monday would have been quite the audition too.
No.5 – Daryl Dike (Orlando City currently on loan at Barnsley)
It’s only a matter of time before European clubs come calling for Daryl Dike. The 2020 MLS Campaign saw the Nigerian-American make his full professional debut season with Orlando City where his striking rival was Robinho (yes, that Robinho).
The 20 year-old played 17 MLS League games – scoring 8 goals and grabbing 3 assists. Standing at 6ft 2, the striker has an incredible physical presence and hold-up play. He would bring a similar type of presence to which Moussa Dembélé most recently brought to Celtic; fast, powerful, strong, and a deadly finisher inside the box. Impressively, Dike was called up to the USA National Team in December 2020 for a friendly against El Salvador and would have featured had it not been for a minor injury which ruled him out of the tie.
The MLS is a league in which we see Celtic operate in more frequently these days, Mark McKenzie being the recent ‘could have’ and probably ‘should have’ signing. McKenzie opted for a move to Genk, with Celtic reportedly not doing enough to secure the centre-back’s highly rated services.
Dike may be one for Celtic to keep an eye on to see how his development unfolds as he prepares for his second full season as a professional, however, if the club are looking at bringing Daryl Dike to Parkhead, they may need to do it sooner than later. His stock will only continue to rise.