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Mohamed Elyounoussi’s Celtic return has provided Neil Lennon with a conundrum

Celtic breezed to a 3-0 victory over Clyde on Sunday afternoon in a fixture that raised a fresh dilemma for Neil Lennon to mull over.

On the chalkboard 

Lennon has been a keen advocate of a three-at-the-back system since the turn of the year, deploying the new-look formation against Kilmarnock, Hamilton and Motherwell.

Celtic won those three games with an aggregate scoreline 10-1, suggesting that it’s a system worth pursuing with and even championing moving forward. 

That the Hoops recorded a famous 2-1 win over Lazio in the Europa League using a similar system underlines its suitability in gargantuan fixtures as well as, relatively speaking, less demanding clashes.

In the absence of Momahed Elyounoussi the formation has made logical sense given the players at Lennon’s disposal, but his return to the starting XI on Sunday has create a fresh conundrum to be unpicked.

Elyounoussi provides a conundrum

The 25-year-old is an attacking midfielder by trade and showcased his creative verve in the opening weeks of the campaign with four goals and two assists in just six SPFL appearances. 

Subsequent injury problems have derailed his progress at Paradise but he was selected from the outset on Sunday in what effectively represented a comeback appearance for the loanee from Southampton.

The problem emerging in tandem with his return, however, concerns Lennon’s recent preference for a defensive trio. Elyounoussi is a gifted footballer in the attacking third, particularly from wide positions, but he is seldom found tracking runners deep in his own territory nor an expert in the fine art of defending. 

Or, to put it more simply: he is not well suited to a full-back role on either side of the pitch and that acknowledgement raises questions regarding his reintegration into the side. 

The Norwegian could play just off Odsonne Edouard in a front-two or sit deeper in the centre of midfield, but Leigh Griffiths is in the process of establishing a promising partnership with the French forward and it would be harsh of Lennon to omit him from the starting XI after contributing three goals in five SPFL fixtures since the turn of the year.

Should Celtic sign Elyounoussi permanently?

Yes

Yes

No

No

And the final layer of this conundrum concerns the fact Elyounoussi is only on a temporary deal with the club. On the one hand Celtic may be inclined to favour players who are tied down to the club on permanent, long-term deals, but by the same token the playmaker is effectively on a trial which could potentially lead to a permanent deal in the summer if he sufficiently impresses.

There’s no doubt Elyounoussi’s return is a major boost for the title-chasing Hoops, but it does bring a fresh puzzle for Lennon in the midst of a successful tactical experiment.

Article title: Mohamed Elyounoussi’s Celtic return has provided Neil Lennon with a conundrum

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