Can Leigh Griffiths Be Celtic’s Leading Striker This Season?


Last summer Moussa Dembele hit the ground running when he arrived at Celtic Park.

The young striker managed to score thirty-two times for the Hoops, including a famous Scottish Premiership hat-trick against rivals Rangers. He helped the Glasgow giants secure the domestic treble and his form won him a call-up to the French under-21 squad.

In January, Dembele was linked with a £30m move to Chelsea and this summer AC Milan, Arsenal and Marseille all reportedly had an interest in the player.

So you might find it funny to learn that a growing number within Celtic’s fanbase believe that Leigh Griffiths deserves to be leading the line for the Scottish champions ahead of the young Frenchman this season.

The Scottish internationalist run amok last night as Celtic thumped FC Astana in their Champions League play-off first leg encounter.

Griffiths will claim the fifth goal as it was his shot that deflected off of Igor Shitov and sailed into the net. The marksman led the line with almost perfection and had a big hand in creating goals for Scott Sinclair and James Forrest.

In the last twelve months, Leigh has improved various facets of his game.

Previously many questioned if he could play up-top alone or succeed in the bigger games. Now he is muscling much bigger defenders out of the way, running tirelessly into the channels or behind the defence and he is still grabbing goals. His hold up play has gone from near nonexistent to great within a such a short space of time too.

He is clearly a player who has always had a tremendous amount of confidence in his own ability. His two free-kicks for Scotland against the Auld Enemy England in June showed the world that Leigh will always back himself in tight situations.

Last term Brendan Rodgers came in and made Dembele his number one attacker, the new manager also preferred playing with just one striker. But instead of moaning and going in a huff, Griffiths kept his head down and when he got his chance he took it.

In the second half of last season’s invincible year, Dembele’s form dipped and he looked a bit sluggish. The club’s number nine came in and gave the attack a new lease of life. He would end the campaign with eighteen goals in thirty-five appearances.

So far in this new season he has bagged four in five games, not bad for someone just coming back from a calf injury.

Celtic captain Scott Brown was full of praise for the hitman after his Astana showing:

“It isn’t just about Leigh’s goal, it is about his hold-up play and what he does for the team,”

 “A couple of years ago, Leigh would have been taken shots whenever he had the ball up there but you see his link-up play now, it is of the highest level.”

Leigh Griffiths’ performances in the last eight months have been a joy to watch. He has clearly developed into a fine striker. I like the fact that he’s clearly worked on his weaknesses and now it’s very tough to point any out.

One thing that he will have to constantly keep in check is certain lifestyle, fitness and disciplinary issues. Rodgers warned the player in January that he had to shape up. You then had the UEFA charge after the Linfield game earlier in the summer. I believe Griffiths is learning his lessons and will hopefully stay away from anymore trouble this season but you just never know with this particular player.

So can Leigh keep his place or will Dembele come straight back into the team when he regains full fitness?

Personally I think at the moment it’s Griffiths position to lose. If he continues to play like he did last night then I can’t see Brendan dumping the Scottish forward. It would rock the player’s confidence and wouldn’t be great for team morale.

Competition should breed better performances. Knowing that Dembele is waiting for his place should spur Griffiths on even more. If he messes up or suffers in form then I have no doubts that Moussa will come in and replace him.

Personally I’d like to see the two forwards together on the pitch more often. They seem to enjoy a good understanding and link up well together whenever they’ve played alongside one another. Neither of them is overly selfish and they understand when the other is in a better position. But alas the Celtic manager seems intent to sticking with his one up-top philosophy.

It’s great to see a Scottish striker improving and understanding his role more. At twenty-six years of age Leigh Griffths can still develop further and hopefully he’ll do that this season!


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