Why 17 Celtic goalscorers show it’s not all about Neil Lennon’s strikeforce

Odsonne Edouard heads Celtic in front. Picture: Getty
Odsonne Edouard heads Celtic in front. Picture: Getty
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Goals might not have been in particularly plentiful supply as Celtic put to rights earlier wrongs against Cluj last night.

Yet, the fact that Neil Lennon’s men breached the Romanians’ defence at all, made the 2-0 victory that sent them to the top of their Europa League group made for a significance that might not have been immediately apparent.

For the disciplined display that puts them in a powerful position at the top of Group E ensured the encounter became the 19th in succession in which the Scottish champions have netted this season. Not since Martin O’Neill’s first year, back in 2000-01, had the club scored in every game across the opening months of a campaign.

Then, they didn’t post a duck egg in their “goals for” column until their 27th outing that term.

Drawing attacking parallels between a side which boasted Henrik Larsson and Chris Sutton as a twin strikeforce and practically all other Celtic sides of recent memory wouldn’t stack up.

However, there is no disputing that Lennon’s side are exhibiting a ferocity in the final third that makes their goalscoring consistency anything but merely 
coincidental.

The central force, in all manner of respects, is Odsonne Eduoard, of course. The Frenchman’s headed opener reaffirmed his unerring knack for proving a player who bags big goals at big moment; as he has demonstrated consistently across his two and a bit years at the club.

Last night, was his ninth in Europe. His 43 goals also include five notched against Rangers, and two in May’s Scottish Cup final.

As a successor to fellow countryman and now £50 million Manchester United target Moussa Dembele, Edouard has entirely different attributes to the now Lyon forward. Except when it comes to rising to the occasion, Dembele is also a master in such matter across his two seasons at Celtic.

Edouard isn’t the sort of goal hungry striker that would bust a gut to chase down 40 goals in a season. The Cluj counter was only his ninth this season.

However, the fact there is only one double in that tally means he has netted in eight of the 14 games he has started since July. He has done his damage with goals in four European games and the derby… precisely the sort of assignments in which his team most need him to step up.

What has provided Celtic with an edge they seemed to be losing in recent seasons is that the dependence on Edouard is far from absolute. That was indicated by the fact that in claiming the decisive second last night, Mohamed Elyounoussi became Celtic’s 17th scorer across the 19 competitive matches. Even allowing for the fact that they recruited a clutch of forwards on loan last January, across the whole of last season the Scottish champions had only 20 scorers.

Lennon maintained that the Celtic of his second spell would be a front-foot team. It is this drive that has allowed such as Ryan Christie to become the team’s top scorer – he has plundered 11 goals already this season – and James Forrest to chip in regularly. Indeed, with on-loan Southampton winger Elyounoussi opening his Celtic account, only Scott Brown of Celtic’s front six against Cluj has yet to find the net this season. A campaign that still has a full eight months to run.

With Vakoun Bayo suspended and Leigh Griffiths still recovering from a recent knock, Lennon only had one true centre-forward in his squad last night. It turns out he only needed one in this instance. Yet, however lethal that player may be in 21-year-old Eduoard, Celtic’s goals stats point to something deeper. In Lennon’s Celtic, there is the sense that goals aren’t the preserve of attackers but all about the team’s state of mind.