This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Leigh Griffiths is back after a lengthy lay-off, and Neil Lennon’s early-season formation experiment could be the secret to helping him return to his best.
Griffiths wasted little time showing Celtic fans what they had been missing upon his return to the starting XI against Nomme Kalju last week, scoring a stunning free-kick in his side’s 5-0 win.
It was the striker’s first goal since November, having taken time away from the game to deal with his mental health. Yet, upon his return, he showed signs, none bigger than the emphatic set-piece strike, that his talents didn’t diminish during his spell out.
It’s a welcome return for not just those of a green and white persuasion but Scotland fans too, who know exactly what he’s capable of for his country.
His return does however provide his manager with something of a problem – how does he get a fit and firing Griffiths into his starting line-up?
Lennon has experimented with a change away from his favoured 4-2-3-1 during the early season, adopting a 3-5-2 at points. This alteration was mainly down to not having a right-back he could totally trust, with Anthony Ralston not risked in the early Champions League qualifiers.
Yet, while it looks a temporary solution as the club brought in Hatem Abd Elhamed to play as a right-back (and continue to chase another, according to The Scottish Daily Mail), it may be the system best suited to Griffiths.
Given Odsonne Edouard’s scoring rate last season and the £9m invested in him, he’s a certainty to be picked, but a fit and happy Griffiths is as prolific a scorer as any, and Lennon’s usual 4-2-3-1 leaves no room for two strikers.
Sticking with the 3-5-2 to fit the 28-year-old Scot and Frenchman in the side would allow the duo to build a partnership, something we’ve not seen yet. If they hit it off, their scoring records suggest they would be a devastating duo up front.
Also, in Scott Sinclair, Vakoun Bayo and Mikey Johnston, they have options to rotate and keep the duo fresh for the important ties.
The temporary fix of three at the back was designed to buff up the defence while Lennon was without a first-choice right-back, but it also happens to be the perfect way to get Griffiths in the team alongside focal point Edouard, which could be just what the popular forward needs to get back in his stride.