Has Odsonne Edouard taken Leigh Griffiths place in Celtic’s pecking order?
Leigh Griffiths could only watch from the bench as Partick Thistle led Celtic 1-0 at half-time on Tuesday night. Griffiths came on to make a significant second-half impact, but the fact he was benched to begin with, behind the on-loan PSG forward Odsonne Edouard, was certainly interesting. Is he now Celtic’s third-choice striker? By Paige Beresford
Leigh Griffiths has a striking record that players of any level would be proud of. Last season he scored 20 times in 35 games and so far this season, he’s netted 13 goals while setting up four more. Whether he’s been first choice or not, no one can dispute the fact that he’s rarely let his side down since he joined Celtic in 2014.
However, the 27-year-old striker has often had to prove to managers that he has what it takes to be Celtic’s main man leading the attack, and under Brendan Rodgers, it has been no different.
One of the first things Rodgers did as Celtic’s manager was sign Moussa Dembele, who eventually took Griffiths place as the club’s first-choice striker. This meant that, again, the Scottish international has had to show both personal improvement and patience in order to be continued being seen as a valued member of the Celtic squad.
However, it seems that now his current standing has taken a further hit.
At the start of this season, Griffiths spent four consecutive matches as a substitute – unused in three of them. This has rarely happened in his time at the Hoops. This time, it’s not just that he’s coming second fiddle to Dembele’s undeniable form, but because Rodgers is choosing to play loanee Odsonne Edouard instead.
The young Frenchman has started many of Celtic’s league games this season, with Dembele starting most of their Champions League matches.
With questions surrounding Dembele’s future with the Hoops, will the Paris Saint-Germain loanee replace Griffiths as Dembele’s immediate back up?
Even in last night’s match against Partick Thistle, Edouard started in his place.
However, Celtic had Griffiths to thank for helping to a 2-1 win. After trailing 1-0 at halftime to a Conor Sammon penalty, Brendan Rodgers introduced Griffiths at the break, and he completely changed the complexion of the game.
His constant runs in behind the Partick defence, and insatiable appetite for shots on goal piled pressure on the hosts, and it was his goal which eventually delivered all three points to the Bhoys.
Since arriving at Celtic Park, Griffiths has scored an excellent 100 goals – last night’s goal marking that figure – which is clear that the 27-year-old is a constant danger for the opposition when wearing the green and white hoops.
So why has he hardly started a match since the end of October?
There’s no denying that Dembele coming to the club has played a massive role, who is very impressive when he’s at full fitness and not battling injury.
Not to mention the massive amount of matches Celtic have been playing as of late. The packed fixture schedule has meant that Rodgers has had a chance to look at Edouard, who they have the option of buying after the loan deal expires.
The only way for Rodgers to know if he is the right player for Celtic is to give him some game time. Game time is what Edouard has been limited to so far this season so he needs to get on the pitch. Unfortunately this naturally leads to other strikers – in this case Griffiths – missing out given the system that Rodgers uses at Celtic Park.
Although Edouard has been doing well in the Celtic side, especially after scoring a hat-trick against Motherwell, there have been times where Rodgers could have relied on Griffiths a bit more. Like when Edouard was a little off his pace in a match against Hibernian causing them to drop points or when he missed key chances in a game against Hamilton.
That’s not to say that Griffiths won’t continue to play a vital role in the Celtic squad in both the short and long-term future – he will. And Hoops fans would be affronted if he wasn’t. Despite his recent lack of action, his performances yesterday proved Celtic need him.
Critics have called Griffiths many things, but one thing they cannot claim him to be is disloyal. He is reliable to his club and at some time in the future when Dembele eventually leaves Celtic Park, the club will need mainstays like Griffiths to be a reliable presence while the club find new striking targets.