Giorgios Giakoumakis and Albian Ajeti: Celtic's forgotten forwards - what does future hold?
There may have been a breathless feel to Ange Postecoglou’s first six months at the Celtic helm.
However, the two-month period that could be ahead for the Australian and his team, beginning with the cinch Premiership restart on January 17 that brings Hibs to Glasgow, has the potential to make everything up till now appear gently paced. Should Celtic make it beyond both Alloa and the Scottish Cup fifth round tie this would earn them, while prevailing over Bodo/Glimt in their Conference League play-off in mid-February, they will contest no fewer than 18 games in little over eight weeks.
Given that context, the arrival of striker Daizen Maeda from J-League club Yokohama F Marinos in this window, should not be perceived as rendering Giorgos Giakoumakis and Albian Ajeti surplus to requirements. Especially not in light of the extensive injury issues that have beset Postecoglou’s men amidst the 56-year-old high-intensity approach to playing and training – which, indeed, have afflicted the two forwards utlised as understudies to Kyogo Furuhashi.
A mere three-striker roster proved insufficient for Celtic to have at least one at their disposal for certain stages across a game-strewn December. A period in which Furuhashi and Ajeti succumbed to hamstring problems that have been an unwelcome regular feature across the squad during the Postecoglou era. Their losses came after Giakoumakis was sidelined with an ankle problem, having been earlier troubled by fitness concerns from his arrival into the senior set-up following his £2.5m move from VVV Venlo on the final day of the summer transfer window.
In the weeks leading up to the winter break, Postecoglou required to operate with Tom Rogic as a false No 9, winger Liel Abada as an emergency centre-forward and hand 18-year-old striker Joey Dawson a Celtic debut. All of which suggests his squad will hardly be frontline heavy with the quartet of Furuhashi, Maeda, Giakoumakis and Ajeti at his disposal. If, indeed, the Celtic manager ever enjoys the luxury of all four being available at the same time.
There is a growing expectation that, instead of being a back-up to top scorer and prized asset Furuhashi, Maeda may dovetail with his countryman in a front three. The scamping, stamina-fuelled approaches of the pair ensure they are identikit performers for the high-octane pressing Postecoglou seeks from his side. In contrast, Giakoumakis and Ajeti, do not offer such attributes. It can be difficult, then, to see how they can really fit into Postecoglou’s system.
However, it can be forgotten that when Furuhashi was missing through September with a hamstring strain, Ajeti deployed his penalty-box instincts to plunder three goals inside two games – leading the line with potency as he netted in the 4-3 defeat away to Real Betis. Likewise, Giakoumakis marked his first start in Celtic colours – for the win over St Johnstone in late October – by bundling in from a cross.
Neither forward can offer the mobility of Furuhashi or Maeda, but both will require breathers in the coming months. Effectively, they have been playing constantly since the 2021 calendar J-League began last February. Giakoumakis and Ajeti can’t be considered as more players to deputise for them. But if the first six month of Postecoglou’s tenure has shown anything, it is that he can’t have too many of such types.
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