Jeremie Frimpong's Celtic positional change examined - and how a Neil Lennon talk has made big difference

The Italian press were in no doubt about the most impressive performer in the Celtic ranks across the 4-2 defeat by AC Milan at the San Siro.
Celti'c's Jeremie Frimpong tussles with AC Milan's Samuel Castillejo in the San Siro. (Photo by Giuseppe Maffia / SNS Group)Celti'c's Jeremie Frimpong tussles with AC Milan's Samuel Castillejo in the San Siro. (Photo by Giuseppe Maffia / SNS Group)
Celti'c's Jeremie Frimpong tussles with AC Milan's Samuel Castillejo in the San Siro. (Photo by Giuseppe Maffia / SNS Group)

In the curate’s egg of a display, the highest rating in the visitors’ ranks was accorded to Jeremie Frimpong. A player for whom Neil Lennon appeared to have hatched a new plan. More than that, a young man that the Celtic manager took aside for a pep talk before sending him out at the grand old ampitheatre.

The 19-year-old has suffered from second-season syndrome as Celtic’s form has plummeted ahead of a now must-win hosting of St Johnstone on Sunday. Following a spectacular impact in his debut campaign, he has neither looked entirely comfortable in a flat back four nor as a wing-back. Against Milan, though, Frimpong’s pace and forward thrust was utilised in a more orthodox wide right midfield berth, a winger-type role for a club bereft of such players as the results of injuries drawing bringing his best display of this ill-starred campaign.

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Frimpong was a winger in the early days following the Dutch youngster’s move to Manchester City as a nine-year-old. To prosper as an attacking player there is a real onus on him to improve his final ball and cross-field deliveries, yet it can be overlooked how green he remains, having featured in only 40 senior games.

His bright showing in Milan may have been owed to more than a positional switch, though. Lennon reveals he has taken it upon himself to be a sounding board over life, lockdown and everything for his players. Many of which are forced to lead a pretty solitary existence in this Covid-19 age away from their home countries and families.

Good to talk

“I had a long chat with Jeremie [Frimpong] on Thursday in the afternoon before the game. I had a good half an hour sat with him,” said the Celtic manager. “He was outstanding in the San Siro. I don’t know if it had anything to do with the chat that we had, but he went out there and played bravely.

“I don’t just want to speak to them about football. I want to get to know what’s going on with them. I want to know how they are getting on in Glasgow with the restrictions, how they are coping with it all. They are also human beings. Jeremie was pretty positive about the whole thing and he’s sort of gone out and it manifested itself in his performance in Milan.

“They are good boys, they are really good lads and they are working really hard. I’ve done it with many of them. Senior players, younger players. The response has been good. Kris Ajer is still a young man. Ryan Christie is the same, so is Odsonne [Edouard].

“We are having a bad run [with two wins in 11 games, and three straight defeats] and it's probably the first one we have had in five, six or 10 years. There have been long chats with a few of them over the past few days just to see where we are as a group. I thought they did a lot of good things in Milan and that pleased me.”

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