Jeremie Frimpong and Greg Taylor can be Celtic’s answer to Liverpool pair Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson
He is certainly a shoot for the moon sort of guy, Christopher Jullien. And not just for himself, but his Celtic team-mates.
The Frenchman might have been expected to side-step the suggestion yesterday that the attacking threat provided by the Scottish champions full-backs Jeremie Frimpong and Greg Taylor could make them Celtic’s answer to Liverpool’s assist kings Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andrew Robertson. The duo’s devastating gallops into the final third have been instrumental in the Anfield side landing the Champions League and a first title for three decades across the past 15 months. In that league success, the two full-backs were behind only Kevin De Bruyne for the number of assists produced.
The menace from Celtic’s – nominal – defenders on the flanks was unmistakeable as Neil Lennon’s men dished out a flag-day flailing of Hamilton Accies. And, though Odsonne Edouard’s hat-trick stole the headlines, a goal from Frimpong and two assists by Taylor did not go unnoticed.
Jullien maintains their telling contribution in forward areas on Sunday was the result of a gameplan worked on in preparation for an assault on a Scottish record 10th consecutive title. And the 27-year-old says Frimpong and Taylor can “definitely” wreak the havoc of Alexander-Arnold and Robertson with their enterprise, even if Jurgen Klopp’s full-backs are “at a different level”.
“They are playing in a team that’s accomplishing everything,” Jullien said of the Liverpool pair. “If they [Frompong and Taylor] can take that example and work on it and be so efficient like this for the team then that would be amazing. I’m really happy for them because they show how good some full-backs can be and how important they can be for a team.
“Since Greg joined Celtic I have some other games when he was really good too. He’s always been a player who does a lot of running for the team. To have this performance from these two guys on Sunday, I was really happy for them. It’s just a result of the pre-season, they were good all through and very focused.
“The full-backs are definitely going to have an impact on our team this season. They are the two players – Gregy and Jerry – who defend and attack the most. We trust them to get space and to play their game. They are stronger defensively too. It’s good to score and have some assists but at the end of the day they are defenders and they are very good in battles and one v ones. It’s very good for the team and definitely for them.”
Jullien accepts the game has changed so much that full-backs must be capable of offering a threat in the final third. Not longer is that a welcome bonus.
Indeed, Taylor’s early struggles to gain a foothold at left-back following his move from Kilmarnock a year ago had everything to do with his need to develop this aspect of his game. He certainly appears to have made the necessary improvement. He bagged five assists in the second half of last season so after one outing, is almost halfway to that.
On their current trajectory, Jullien believes the Scotland international and his teenage counterpart on the right may one day prove as inspiring as the current Anfield role models.
“Sometimes when I was younger I played right-back,” he said. “I know these players are really important for the team, especially when they defend the first ball then counter behind. If they can do as well as Alexander-Arnold and Robertson that would be great for sure. I hope some young player will say one day they want to be a Jeremie Frimpong or a Greg Taylor.
“Most of the team know we can play down the sides. Gregy and Jerry, they can put us in a tactical position. We can change some things and when we want to cross we know we’ll have some people inside the box. They’ve worked so hard on their crosses, they stay late after training. It’s really good for the team.”
If Celtic’s full-backs will be tasked with bringing extra dimensions to the champions’ forward forays, Rangers have gone down a different route to enhance their potency.
The signing of strikers Kemar Roofe and Cedric Itten, in deals worth a reported combined £8.5 million, demonstrates the Ibrox club are going all-out in their efforts to ensure they can match for firepower their ancient adversaries they simply must dislodge from their perch to avoid the doomsday scenario for Rangers’ faithful.
Jullien continues to believe that Celtic have the necessary armoury for the 10-in-a-row shoot-out, but acknowledges that Steven Gerrard’s team are taking on a more formidable opponent.
“I saw that this morning,” he said of the latest recruits across the city. “Every team in the championship will try to sign new players. We know that the rivalry with Rangers is really big. They want to have some players in their team. That’s normal because they want to defeat the champions.
“Today we are the champions and we know every team is going to come stronger. We are ready for it. We know every team is going to have some power and we just have to be more focused and work hard on our team.”
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