Invaluable Edouard eases January grumbles

Since returning from the winter break Celtic’s results have been exceptional. Six wins out of six, with 18 goals scored, have ensured the disastrous late December derby showing has been consigned to the darkness like a Hogmanay hangover.

Whilst results have been indomitable, performances have often told a different story. Fluctuating from the sublime to the ridiculous, and back again.

Throughout the last month we’ve seen an energised Celtic swat their opponents aside with fluid, dynamic football – in spells, the most entertaining exhibited in recent memory – yet, within the same 90 minute periods, calamitous lapses in concentration and control have emboldened lower-table sides to take us on at the other end of the park.

That is not necessarily to criticise, football played at the intensity Celtic are frequently demonstrating is impossible to endure, and whilst, at times, a little chaotic, at others (particularly the 1st half vs St Johnstone and 2nd half vs Motherwell), the relentless, one-touch, attacking displays have simply blown our opponents away.

At their best, the speed and impulsiveness of Celtic’s play has proved impossible to predict. Yet, with so much in football hinging on spontaneity, central to Celtic’s irresistible mayhem, has been Odsonne Edouard’s calculated excellence.

Every swivel of his hips, feint drop of the shoulder, flick through an opponent’s legs. Edouard is playing a game numerous steps ahead of the opposition.

With Leigh Griffiths assuming the number 9 position, Edouard’s awareness and intelligence to roam the pitch is rivalled only by his ability.

Throughout his time at Celtic we’ve witnessed Edouard drop deep or drift wide to receive possession, watching in awe as he ambles his way through packed defences with the ball stuck to his feet. However, it is the aura, and premeditation, with which he has been performing in recent weeks that has raised the bar once again.

Nothing that Odsonne Edouard is doing at the moment is by chance, his on-field assessment and meticulous precision is breathtaking. When Edouard drops deep to receive the ball he knows exactly what he’s going to do next. When he lends it to his teammate he’s already visualised where he’s going to receive it back.

A perfect example of this came with his first goal against Motherwell last night, after great work from Griffiths to win possession back on the halfway line, Brown fed Edouard just inside the Motherwell half. Edouard, in turn, laid the ball off to McGregor, and, as soon as he’d done so, burst away on the overlap to create space and demand it back. His second against Hamilton on Sunday was almost identical in style. Receiving a pass deep in the half from Jonny Hayes, Edouard drove towards goal before a fluid stepover and pass inside to Rogic allowed him the space to sprint through the Hamilton defence and slot the ball home with an, as-ever, composed first-time finish.

Although the results off the back of the winter break have seen Celtic pull seven points clear in the league (having played a game more than Rangers), many fans have been left disappointed with the January transfer window activity, or lack thereof.

Whilst some supporters have accused others of unnecessarily panicking, or to use their own words “bedwetting”, regarding the race for the title, it is entirely justified to want Celtic to be the best they can be in every aspect.

The narrative that seems to have been building: that hysteria has set in because of the defeat at the turn of the year and due to Rangers’ own activity in the transfer window, is simply false.

In an age where the majority of Celtic fans no longer use the ‘Old Firm’ tag – of course because of Rangers’ liquidation, but also having grown tired of the forced association with our rivals – it is exclusively because of hopes and expectations of Celtic Football Club, that some supporters were left disappointed with the lack of signings in January.

Celtic are a stand-alone entity, and as such Celtic’s strategy should be entirely independent to anything Rangers do. They are insignificant to our planning and transfer dealings.

The January transfer window offers the last opportunity to fully embed new players into the squad before the start of the European qualifiers in early summer. In this regard, many fans hoped for more forward thinking this January. That was all.

However, with Odsonne Edouard now performing at levels not seen in Scotland since Henrik Larsson, the board have an opportunity to to make a statement to the fans that they’re serious about progressing as a club, exceeding domestic dominance and developing at a continental level.

If they want to prove critics wrong and demonstrate they have continually advancing aspirations, they will do everything in their power to keep Odsonne Edouard at Celtic beyond the summer.

Sure, £30m+ may have a nice ring to it for those in charge of the chequebook, but players of Edouard’s quality are worth far more to Celtic than any sum.

Edouard is now playing at a level where he is simply irreplaceable.

Amidst the escalating pressure towards Celtic’s Holy Grail, Odsonne Edouard remains the most composed and calculated figure involved. Let’s make sure he’s here for the duration of it.

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