‘It works for Inter Milan’ - Neil Lennon explains Celtic’s switch to two strikers

It may have become an uncommon sight in top-level football but Neil Lennon doesn’t pretend he has re-invented the wheel just because the Celtic manager has had the audacity to field two central strikers.

Leigh Griffiths is benefitting from Celtic playing with two strikers. Picture: Craig Foy / SNS
Leigh Griffiths is benefitting from Celtic playing with two strikers. Picture: Craig Foy / SNS

Odsonne Edouard and Leigh Griffiths have proved in simpatico across the three games they have operated as a partnership. Lennon, though will not consider he has a new (old) orthodoxy of 3-5-2 that has allowed this – and which was Martin O’Neill’s initial default at Celtic – but that he has the flexibility to alter his system as demands and player-availability determine. The trip to Hamilton Accies’ plastic tomorrow might require a different strategy.

“Inter Milan play with two strikers and they’re doing OK. I don’t see any issue with it at all,” said the Celtic manager. “They [Edouard and Griffiths] are two very intelligent players and it’s a formation I’ve used as a manager and played with for a long time. There’s nothing genius about it, you just look at your personnel and look at how you can maybe get three midfielders, two strikers and a bit of width in the team while still being strong at the back.

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“It’s not perfect by any means but we’ve used it over the course of the season, like in Lazio, and it worked for us then as well. The players seem comfortable with it. I played ten years in it under Martin and a few other teams played that way. St Johnstone used it on Wednesday as well.

“It’s not like it’s a dinosaur thing, it’s still very effective at times. Probably the one formation that really doesn’t get used now is 4-4-2 with the way players are trained and developed at a young age, but that may raise its head again 
somewhere down the line, you never know.

“I do think it’s cyclical. 4-3-3 has been used a lot over the last 10-15 years with [Pep] Guardiola and [Jose] Mourinho being at the forefront of it, but there’s adaptations to that as well. [Jurgen] Klopp uses it [at Liverpool] but in a different way. It may go out of fashion at some stage and two strikers might become de rigeur again, I don’t know. But for me it’s about the right personnel for the right 

Lennon’s reassimilation of Griffiths has turned out to be the right call at the right time. Even with the Scotland striker netting three goals in four outings, though, the Celtic manager treads warily about the potential for the 29-year-old to scale the heights he was at between 2015 to 2017.

“His record [of 110 goals for Celtic] is excellent and he scores goals in big games. His goal the other night [in the 3-0 victory in Perth] was a striker’s goal and you can’t coach that. Can he get back to where he was? I’m not sure. We’ll have to wait and see. He’s trying his best to get there.

“People are talking about Scotland but it’s not my main issue at the minute. I just want him to get a run of games and stay fit and leaner. He admitted himself he’s got more to do but I’m delighted with his start to the second half of the season.

“Everyone says the presence of [Patryk] Klimala is bringing the best out of him but he’s working hard and he worked hard before Kilmala was in the door. I haven’t seen a change in his attitude since then.

“He wasn’t great playing on his own up there against Ross County [last Saturday] but he was more like himself the other night. Maybe with Odsonne there’s a partnership there that can do well.”