Brentford Should Expect Big Things From Kristoffer Ajer

Celtic have just announced the departure of Norwegian defender Kristoffer Ajer (Source

The centre-back has joined newly promoted English Premier League side Brentford for a reported £13.5m fee (From Daily Record). That sees the twenty-three year old becoming The Bees new record signing.

Many in the Celtic faithful will be wondering what if, when it comes to this transfer.

What if the club had secured ten in a row and what if the Norwegian had had another standout season at Celtic Park?

That fee could have been around £18m if not higher.

Up until the Covid outbreak and the collapse of The Hoops last term, Ajer was looking like the next big thing in Scotland’s top flight.

Comparisons with former Celt Virgil van Dijk were maybe a bit strong, Van Dijk is a top world class talent after all. But to be fair to the young Norwegian, no defender has played as effortless well up in Scotland since the Dutchman as Ajer has.

Often Kristoffer seemed comfortable playing in third gear, knowing he could step it up a few more gears in the bigger games if need be.

When you look at how Celtic usually do business, then players like Ajer and Odsonne Edouard wouldn’t have been allowed to stay on for the last twelve months. They’d have probably been sold when they had two years left on their deals, yet the desire to win the ten league titles in a row proved to be the main factor in keeping the talent on for another year and risk losing value on the players.

With Celtic playing so poorly last year, the board were left with players whose value had decreased and who want or wanted in Ajer’s case to leave Glasgow.

Even though Celtic weren’t at their best last term, Ajer wasn’t one of those that completely downed tools.

Kristoffer had to play with multiple defensive partners what with Christopher Julien’s injury and Shane Duffy’s inability to find any form whilst at the Parkhead club!

Then there was issues in Celtic’s goalkeeping department. New boy Vasilios Barkas failed to settle and proved to be inconsistent. Scott Bain is a decent back-up but not a goalie you’d pin your title hopes on. While Conor Hazard was too young to establish himself as a number one. Those issues proved to be another unsettling factor for Celtic’s backline.

Former Hoops boss Neil Lennon also moved Ajer out to right-back on a few occasions and that too seemed to unsettle the centre-back and his teammates.

In aerial battles, Ajer was winning over 3 a game on average. He enjoyed an 88% passing success rate, the highest of any regular defender at Celtic last season. In terms of tackles he was winning around 1.3 and 1.4 interceptions. Plus he averaged 3.4 clearances according to Whoscored.

In his last two seasons, the Norwegian internationalist also looked very handy in the Europa League. Again he was recording passing success rates that were up 80%. On average he was making more tackles and interceptions whilst playing in Europe compared to his domestic stats, showing us that he was able to step up against tougher opponents.

Kristoffer is happy to play from the back and having the ball at his feet. The defender is versatile and fast enough to play as a right-back but he’s certainly more suited to playing as a centre-back. His intelligence, mobility and ability on the ball also means he can fill-in as a holding midfielder if needed. These are attributes that will see him ideally suited to come in and go straight into Thomas Frank’s first eleven.

He may still be relatively young, but he already has plenty of experience to his name. After impressing in Norway with IK Start, Ajer would captain that side as a sixteen year old, he moved to Celtic and would help them to multiple league and cup wins!

Being 6ft5, Kristoffer is very strong in the air and can be a threat in both boxes. He’s also a player that isn’t scared of the big occasions, in fact he seems to thrive in the important games. He isn’t scared to show his passion as he wins challenges that are vital to his team’s cause. That should see him become an instant fans favourite with The Bees support.

Whilst managing Celtic, Brendan Rogers was always quick to praise Kristoffer:

“Kris has made some big steps. He’s only 20 but he’s really dominant,” 

“You think now that when everything comes through the middle of the pitch – he’s going to get his head on it.

“He’s a natural leader as a young guy and is improving all the time.

“He must be able to defend, first and foremost. But if you can build up play as well then you can be critical for the team and how we play.”

“Kris is very comfortable at that.”

Brendan Rodgers 2018 Via The Chronicle

I’ve no doubts that Kristoffer Ajer will raise his standards now that he has moved to the English top flight. He learns quickly and plays to his strengths very well. He’s extremely bright and is someone who continually strives to get better. 

An elegant ball playing defender, who has in my opinion been the best centre-back to play in Scotland since Van Dijk’s departure it would not surprise me to see Kristoffer Ajer being linked with a top six side next summer after the top clubs see him preform first hand in the Premier League.

Brentford may have splashed the cash by their own standards but this move for Ajer could prove to be a bargain in the long term!

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