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Sport Celtic transfer window assessed as Neil Lennon's 10 In A Row focus outweighs project player strategy

13:15  06 october  2020
13:15  06 october  2020 Source:   msn.com

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It has been one long window and it went down to the wire for Celtic.

The arrival of Diego Laxalt concluded the champions' transfer business with just hours to go on Monday night.

Neil Lennon added the Uruguayan left-back to mark his sixth summer move and bolster his Hoops squad for their 10 In A Row tilt - until January, of course.

Taking a punt on unknown but emerging youngsters a la Jeremie Frimpong didn't come to fruition with ready-made stars the order of the day.

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Celtic took a significant step towards a ninth title in a row after thumping Hearts to move 10 points Neil Lennon ' s side stretched their winning run since the winter break to eight - and Man of the match - Callum McGregor. There are so many Celtic players delivering consistently in this magnificent run.

Neil Lennon is looking to win Celtic ' s 10 th trophy in a row , while Steven Gerrard aims to win his first as a manager. But rather than consecutive league titles, it is a more immediate 10 - in - a - row that will occupy minds at Hampden on Sunday when Rangers and Celtic meet in the Scottish League Cup final.

Ex-Hoops star Charlie Nicholas branded his former club "cheap" after they concluded their business - but is he correct in his verdict?

Here, Record Sport Online evaluates all six captures and how they illustrate the club's broad focus on setting aside 'project' signings for one season to focus on players who can win now.

Mohamed Elyounoussi

Mohamed Elyounoussi on a football field © SNS Group

Norwegian wide man Elyounoussi had already proven his worth at the Hoops but after a few injury problems in his previous spell, Lennon decided to bring him back.

While the summer conversation centred around retaining Southampton pal Fraser Forster, it was the other Saints loanee that decided to stick around.

Elyounoussi was a late capture in the 2019 summer window when he arrived on August 30 but the manager wasn't prepared to hang about this time, securing him two months earlier and with over three months to go until deadline day.

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And a key contribution early on in his second year in Glasgow already speaks for itself. His late winner in Riga with Celtic heading towards extra time eased the nerves and provided a much-needed jolt.

Elyounoussi was a low-risk, high reward signing that made sense. His versatility in attack allows him to play wide left or off the shoulder of a centre-forward.

He may not fit perfectly into Lennon's favourite 3-5-2 formation but there's a reason the gaffer decided to snap him without hesitation.

Vasilios Barkas

  Celtic transfer window assessed as Neil Lennon's 10 In A Row focus outweighs project player strategy © Craig Williamson/SNS Group

As the aforementioned proposed Forster deal crumbled in late summer, it was time to draw up a new list of goalkeeping targets.

Greek goalie Barkas is who Celtic landed on in a £5m move. And the jury may be out on him so far.

The making of a Hoops keeper is in the big games. That's why the fans were all clamouring for Forster's return; they remember the monstrous performance against Rangers in the League Cup final, the huge late save against Lazio, the 'yellow wall' of that famous Barcelona victory.

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So it's definitely too early to say if the millions splurged on the former AEK Athens man is money well spent, though there hasn't been any real big moments yet during his early days in Glasgow.

He is happy to catch the ball and made a couple of cracking saves against Ross County but has yet to be really tested.

We may well be able to form a picture in the coming weeks with the first derby of the season coming up a week on Saturday against Rangers before Barkas prepares to take on Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the Europa League group stage opener against AC Milan.

Albian Ajeti

a group of football players on a field © SNS Group

The Swiss striker recently thanked his new club for making him 'feel important' after his barren spell at David Moyes' West Ham.

But Celtic already have a lot to thank him for. Since his debut heroics at Dundee United, in which he climbed off the bench to poke home a late winner, Ajeti has pitched in with an impressive early five-goal league haul.

His absurd early record of 48 minutes per goal is the sign of a great striker and he sat atop the scoring charts before Kevin Nisbet of Hibs overtook him with a double at the weekend.

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The only doubt concerns his fitness. He should be back after the international break but an early injury setback mustn't turn out to be a recurring theme.

David Turnbull

a man holding a green ball © Getty Images

Fans got the sense when Turnbull's proposed move to Parkhead collapsed after a medical last summer that we hadn't heard the end of it yet.

Truthfully, the deal turned into a bit of a saga even before that nightmare scan. The 'if not, we move on' statement from the Hoops was hardly an edifying episode.

But sure enough, Lennon returned to Motherwell's rising star one year on. And things went relatively smoothly in 2020, which can be a rarity in the modern game.

Turnbull arrived for £1.8m, far less than his original £3.25m quoted in 2019. And he's already looked the part with a second-half cameo against Hibs staking his first-team claim.

Perennial playmaker Callum McGregor and skipper Scott Brown are going to prove hard to budge in Celtic's engine room but he's still only 21 and he has all the skills to become a key man.

Shane Duffy

Shane Duffy throwing a ball © SNS Group

After a number of iffy performances from centre-back pairing Chris Jullien and Kris Ajer, coupled with the summer departure of Jozo Simunovic, it was clear Lennon needed a new man in the heart of defence.

He could have gone with a similar 'project' signing in Ajer's mould, an understudy of sorts. Or an established defender from abroad like Jullien who had not yet been tested in the rough-and-tumble of the Scottish Premiership.

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But not this season. No, only a proven defender in British football, one with years of experience in England's top flight and a lifelong Hoops fan to boot, it made sense.

A £2m loan fee for just one year of Duffy's career is quite steep but in this season to end all seasons it's all about players who can arrive and contribute instantly.

Diego Laxalt

Diego Laxalt in a green shirt © SNS Group

And that brings us to Monday night's drama as Lennon finally found a left-back replacement for Covid rebel Boli Bolingoli.

In any ordinary campaign Parkhead scouts would be searching for a Jeremie Frimpong for the opposite side, a young understudy tasked with competing with Greg Taylor.

But as is the case at centre-back, so too did Celtic need a recognised first-choice, a man who is able to ring team-mates Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Luis Suarez about the rigours of football in the UK.

Unlike Duffy, however, there are no loan fee strings attached to Laxalt's deal and the Uruguayan is actually a fairly low-risk signing.

It's far too early to judge what he'll bring to the 10 In A Row charge but clearly he's excited for the move - and what better time to arrive than 12 days before a clash with Rangers and just over two weeks before he faces parent club AC Milan in the Europa League?

The one caveat is that it shouldn't have taken until deadline day to replace Bolingoli, whose transgressions were known two months ago, but that's no slight on the player.

Strategy shift

It's telling that the five stars signed before deadline day have already started for Celtic, and Laxalt will surely join that contingent in the coming weeks. This summer there was a clear focus on going for the tried-and-tested, players with a solid track record in Scotland, England or a comparable European league in the cases of Ajeti and Barkas. And with a total window outlay of just under £14m, Nicholas' accusations of being cheap are rather unfounded. Lennon has been backed in the transfer market - now it's up to his new signings to help deliver that coveted milestone.

Whelan tips Celtic to revisit Snodgrass interest in January .
Former Leeds United forward Noel Whelan has tipped Celtic to reignite their interest in West Ham winger Robert Snodgrass in the New Year. The Hoops, according to Sky Sports, launched a late loan move for the 33-year-old, however, the only deadline day arrival at Celtic Park was AC Milan left-back Diego Laxalt. Snodgrass, who left Livingston for Leeds in 2008 and starred at Elland Road during his four-year stay, hasn’t featured for the Hammers in the Premier League this season. The versatile winger is also out of contract at the London Stadium at the end of the season, although there is an option for that to be extended for a further 12 months.

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