This is still a risky strategy even when taking into account that this particular striker, Odsonne Edouard, is Celtic’s most expensive-ever signing. He is also managing perfectly well to continue finding his feet after his debut season when, while on loan from Paris St Germain, he scored 11 times in 29 appearances.
So far in this campaign he has struck 13 goals, including a double against tomorrow’s opponents Hibs when the teams last met in October.
But the unfortunate situation with Leigh Griffiths means yet more pressure has been heaped on Edouard’s young shoulders – for the time being at least. Brendan Rodgers is bound to look again at the situation when the transfer window opens next month but there are still five vital games between now and then. Celtic’s title hopes could hinge on what happens in this series of festive fixtures, which includes away games against Rangers and Aberdeen as well as Hibs.
Rodgers believes Edouard has been responding to doubts about his ability since first coming into the side and scoring on his debut as a substitute against Hamilton Accies last season.
“The kid has been questioned since day one since he came in,” said Rodgers. But just look at his goals record. Look at his goals and assists and his starts. He is young, he is 20, he is still improving and developing. But he is a brilliant talent and he has performed in a lot of big games for us.
“So he is just getting his rhythm, playing a lot of big games. Ideally we would want to be able to give him a breather and change from one up, but we don’t have the squad to do that unfortunately.”
The decision to remove Griffiths from the fray for the foreseeable future in order to deal with personal issues means Edouard is even more embedded as the club’s No 1 striker. He has only scored once in his past seven appearances and often looked isolated on Thursday against Salzburg on a night when Celtic sealed their place in the last 32 of the Europa League despite a 2-1 home defeat. Rodgers does not believe knowing he is firmly established as the club’s principal striker will necessarily boost him – he is too focused on the greater good.
“He doesn’t have to be that,” he said. “He is a very good team player, that’s what is important. He is not a player who is self interested. He is worried about the team and that’s all that worries me.”
Ryan Christie has been a more prodigious goalscorer in recent weeks than Edouard so it was especially concerning to see the midfielder crumple to the ground after tackling Salzburg midfielder Takumi Minamino.
It’s been established that the midfielder, who has scored seven goals in his last 11 appearances, has not broken his ankle. But the in-form midfielder, who left Celtic Park on crutches after the game, will need to undergo further tests to determine what the issue is.
“He’s a huge loss to us but we will assess it and see how the damage is in the next couple of days,” said Rodgers.
“He has been a very important player. We’ve found that with important players, we lose them. But it happens, we have got to deal with it. They have put in a huge effort for a long period of time now and I think we still have 20 games left...This [last 32 qualification] is a huge lift for us though. The overall picture is that we’ve qualified, it’s a great achievement and, like I say, the players will feel confident.”