Celtic Opinion: Hoops should beat Rangers to sign Uche Ikpeazu from Hearts
According to the Sun, Celtic are set to battle it out with Old Firm rivals Rangers for the signature of Hearts forward Uche Ikpeazu in the summer, with Premier League strugglers Cardiff City and Championship outfit Hull City also keen on securing his services.
A product of Reading’s youth system, Ikpeazu joined Watford in 2013 but he failed to make the grade at Vicarage Road, spending time on loan at lower division clubs like Crewe Alexandra, Port Vale, Doncaster Rovers and Blackpool before joining Cambridge United on a permanent deal in 2016.
The Harrow-born striker scored 22 goals in 80 appearances for Cambridge before joining Hearts on a free transfer last summer.
The 24-year-old has managed to replicate his wonderful form in the English fourth tier across the border in the Scottish Premiership, contributing with 5 goals and 4 assists from 19 appearances in all competitions. He has struggled with a foot injury in his debut season in Scotland but has already attracted attention from the big guns.
Meanwhile, Celtic managed to get the better of archrivals Rangers 2-1 in the Old Firm derby, which was sweet revenge after losing out 1-0 to the Gers back in December. It has been a successful season for the Hoops but they would need to dip into the transfer window in the summer in a bid to reshape their squad.
While replacements for the centre-back duo of Dedryck Boyata and Filip Benkovic and right-back Mikael Lustig remain high on Celtic’s wishlist for the summer, the Hoops should also look to add a few fresh faces to bolster their attack.
Oliver Burke and Timothy Weah are only on loan from West Brom and PSG and acquiring the services of either of them permanently apparently seems to be beyond Celtic’s financial capability.
To put things into perspective, s strong and powerful striker like Uche Ikpeazu wouldn’t be a bad option for Lennon to provide cover and competition for Odsonne Edouard up front.
Leigh Griffiths has been out of the picture since December while January signing Vakoun Issouf Bayo is set to establish himself in the first-team scheme of things.
Standing at 6ft.3 inches with a burly and well-built frame, Ikpeazu is a powerful centre-forward whose key attributes are his strength and aerial ability. He has the ability to outmuscle his defensive counterparts with his physicality and power, whilst his aerial prowess makes him a potent threat inside the box from crosses and set-pieces.
He is quite fast and agile for a striker of his stature and has a knack of getting into the right areas to put away chances. Furthermore, the 24-year-old often uses his strength to shield the ball with his back to goal, allowing others to get into the game with good hold-up play.
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Ikpeazu is still untested at the highest level but his successful debut season at Hearts should prompt the Hoops to lure him to Parkhead in the summer. Celtic should still be aiming for better players to make an impact in Europe but Uche Ikpeazu can prove to be a useful back up for Odsonne Edouard next season.
Why Neil Lennon must grab next season by the scruff of the neck and impose his own philosophy at Celtic
Celtic opinion: How Neil Lennon can impose his philosophy and make the Hoops unbeatable
After winning a domestic treble in the recently-concluded season, it is hard to think of how Neil Lennon can still improve Celtic and impose his philosophy to make them unbeatable in the future.
There was a managerial change in February, with Brendan Rodgers departing the club and Lennon taking charge of a squad already set to win trophies. However, this summer provides the latter with an opportunity to do things his way.
Having been at the helm before at Celtic, Lennon must have an idea of how to build a team that is competitive in almost every game of the season.
While domestic trophies may continue to come, partly due to the lack of competition in the country, the main challenge lying ahead is the Champions League.
Talking about last summer, Celtic crashed out of Europe’s elite competition in the third qualifying round, raising a lot of questions about their credibility to win umpteen trophies in Scotland.
They eventually dropped down to the Europa League and were knocked out by Valencia in the round-of-32 stage without even scoring a goal against the La Liga side in 180 minutes of football.
Ideally, if Neil Lennon is to make himself a hero at Celtic and in the eyes of the majority around Europe, he needs to impose his philosophy on the team and try to make them super-competitive in the upcoming Champions League qualifying games.
Lennon’s philosophy and how to improve in UCL
Celtic’s initial target must be to get past the three qualifying rounds in the Champions League and register their name in the group-stage draw. Though they’ve reached the group stage in recent times, not much progress has been made.
As a result, it does make one ponder as to why this happens? Why do Celtic, who are so dominant in Scotland, come into a Champions League game as an underdog?
The answer is the mentality of the players and the lack of flexibility in the tactical thinking of the manager. While playing a normal Scottish league game, one would expect the Hoops to dominate the game by an hour mark and just go through the motions from there on.
While it is good for the players to take the foot off the gas in the domestic arena, it backfires when games are stretched in the Champions League. This is where the team doesn’t possess the flexibility and versatility to manage the game in phases.
Furthermore, managers need to understand that they must either train the players differently on the eve of a midweek European game or instruct them to be more versatile in their approach of the game, from minute one.
It is a cliche in football that big games in the league or Europe are won or lost in the midfield. Celtic do struggle to mark their territory in the midfield when it comes to the Champions League games.
This is where they end up conceding possession to the opposition, inviting pressure on a regular basis. While they have a decent front line, bold players are required in the midfield – ones who can take the ball, hold it and make things happen.
Their back line also needs to be less sloppy in pressure situations, which doesn’t come too often in domestic games.
Lennon has to gradually improve these aspects and look to make shrewd signings. With the experienced Mikael Lustig leaving the club and star left-back Kieran Tierney expected to sign for Arsenal (h/t Guardian), Celtic must be smart in their full-back acquisitions.
Iranian left-back Milad Mohammadi has been linked with them (h/t Scottish Sun), who is a good player and can actually replace Tierney in the team. The challenge is to find a dynamic right-back in the coming days.
In the midfield, the potential deal to sign David Turnbull is on (h/t Scottish Sun) and Celtic have to make sure the Motherwell midfielder joins them ahead of next season.
The 19-year-old is still a raw talent but in Lennon’s 4-2-3-1 formation, he can take up the number 10 role and make things happen for the team. He is not afraid to pick up possession in tight areas as well, something which would help them in Europe.
All in all, it has to be said that Neil Lennon is a good acquisition for this Celtic team on a permanent basis. He just needs to get certain aspects right in order to make them competitive in games all around Europe and Scotland.
Celtic would save a fortune in the transfer window if Neil Lennon reunites with this 27-year-old free agent
Celtic Opinion: Lennon reuniting with Adam Matthews could save the Hoops a fortune in the transfer window
The Welshman is currently a free-agent following his departure from the Black Cats and Celtic have lined him up as a potential transfer target for the summer.
Matthews contributed with a goal and 5 assists in 23 League one appearances for Sunderland this past season, as Jack Ross’ side lost out to Charlton Athletic in the playoff finals, thus missing the chance to secure promotion back to the Championship at the first time of asking.
Matthews is not the only right-back to have been linked with a move to Parkhead, though, with the Hoops also weighing up moves for Sheffield United defender Geroge Baldock and out-of-favour Arsenal star Carl Jenkinson, The Scottish Sun understands.
However, the same source claims that the Blades are reluctant to let the 26-year-old depart following their promotion to the Premier League, and while Baldock remains open to a move across the border, manager Chris Wilder wants to hold on to him despite facing the risk of losing him for free in a year’s time.
The Swansea-born defender rose through the youth ranks of Cardiff City and rose to prominence with the Bluebirds in the Championship during the 2009-10 season.
Matthews’ promise and potential prompted Neil Lennon, then on his first stint as the Celtic manager, to make a move for the youngster and the right-back went on to establish himself as one of the mainstays of the Hoops’ backline in the subsequent seasons.
Matthews racked up a total of 150 appearances for Celtic in all competitions, registering an impressive 5 goals and 22 assists in the process. The 27-year-old guided the Hoops to four consecutive Scottish Premiership titles from 2011 to 2015, whilst also winning the Scottish Cup and the Scottish League Cup over the course of his trophy-laden spell at Parkhead.
The 27-year-old’s career has been in a downward spiral ever since he left Celtic to join Sunderland back in 2015. Matthews found it hard to nail down a regular starting spot at the Stadium of Light due to recurrent injuries and was shipped out on loan to Bristol City in the Championship.
He was a regular since the start of the 2017-18 season following the Black Cats relegation from the Premier League but now that he is a free-agent, a move back to Parkhead might go a long way towards helping him rediscover his old form.
To put things into perspective, it should be an absolute no-brainer for Neil Lennon to bring back his former player to Celtic on a free transfer this summer, with the Hoops currently facing a crisis at right-back.
Matthews’ stint at the Stadium of Light might not have been that fruitful but the 27-year-old is still very much in his prime years and reuniting with him could prove to be a shrewd piece of business by Lennon.
Mikael Lustig has been Celtic’s undisputed first-choice right-back for a long time but the Swedish veteran is out-of-contract this summer and has so far refused to put pen to paper on an extension.
Former West Brom star Cristian Gamboa and Borussia Dortmund loanee Jeremy Toljan are both set to head for the exit door, meaning that the Hoops are at serious risk of being without a single senior right-back in their ranks next season.
Hence, it is not difficult to see why the acquisition of Adam Matthews for free would save Celtic a fortune in the transfer market, whilst also being a quick one-step solution to their right-back conundrum.
The 27-year-old’s previous experience at Celtic coupled with his know-how of the Scottish game should make him a potentially risk-free signing for the Hoops.
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Celtic will be looking to complete nine-in-a-row over arch-rivals Rangers in the Scottish Premiership next term and the arrival of Adam Matthews would hand the Hoops a massive boost prior to the start of the upcoming campaign.
Celtic would work wonders by taking a punt on signing this 27-year-old Arsenal star to shore up their backline
Celtic FC Opinion: Why the Hoops must take a punt on Carl Jenkinson?
According to a report from The Sun, Scottish champions Celtic are interested in Arsenal defender Carl Jenkinson.
Jenkinson, 27, has become something of a forgotten man at the Emirates Stadium. He has played just four Premier League games for Arsenal in the last two seasons. The right-back, however, did impress in a two-year loan spell at West Ham between 2014 and 2016.
The 27-year-old defender doesn’t appear to be in Unai Emery’s plans and could leave the club this summer in a bid to play more first-team football. That being said, Celtic must definitely stump up the cash and sign Jenkinson to solve their defensive woes ahead of the new campaign.
Neil Lennon did a great job after replacing Brendan Rodgers midway through 2018/19, guiding the Hoops to the treble ‘Treble’. For his success as an interim manager, he was handed the permanent reins by the club last month. The Northern Irish manager will likely want to move away from Rodgers’ style of play and he’ll need financial backing to do that.
Loan signings Jeremy Toljan, Oliver Burke and Timothy Weah have returned to their parent clubs, which frees up space, but Celtic will need hard cash if they are to achieve success under Lennon. The reshaping of the squad must happen from the defence, with solving the right-back conundrum a priority.
Experienced Mikael Lustig is yet to sign a new deal at the Parkhead and is now a free agent, with a return to Sweden apparently on the cards. Toljan has returned back to Borussia Dortmund after his loan expired, while Cristian Gamboa is expected to leave the club on a free transfer this summer.
That clearly depicts the Glasgow club’s need for a new right-back ahead of the 2019/20 campaign.
Jenkinson could be a smart signing for the Hoops. Truth to be told, his career has gone backwards for a number of years now due to recurring injury problems and lack of form.
The right-back has been very unfortunate with injuries but at 27, Jenkinson is entering the prime years of his career where he needs to start playing regularly.
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That very well could happen at Celtic, where the Arsenal defender will get a new environment and a different atmosphere to reignite his career. Jenkinson has solid Premier League as well as Championship experience which will be invaluable for Lennon’s troops.
He needs a manager that can trust his ability and provide him regular game time and Lennon could just be that man.
If Lennon can help Jenkinson keep himself fit and running, the 27-year-old could turn out to be a shrewd signing for Celtic and also a perfect replacement for Lustig.
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