SPFL: What Leigh Griffiths Can Bring to Celtic

Sean Martin@@smarti51Contributor IJanuary 31, 2014

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - APRIL 13:  Leigh Griffiths celebrates the winning goal for Hibernian during The William Hill Scottish Cup Semi Final between Falkirk and Hibernian at Hampden Park on April 13, 2013 in Glasgow, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

By lunchtime this January transfer deadline day, Sky Sports, the Daily Record and the Scotsman had all reported that Celtic had re-ignited their interest in Scotland international Leigh Griffiths.

All three sources agree that the fee accepted by Wolves stands at £1 million—or, rather, £800,000 up front plus £200,000 in performance-related bonuses.

A portion of Hoops fans have made it clear they would rather the club did not sign a player with such a difficult reputation off the fieldincluding a shoplifting charge and allegedly sending a racist tweet, as well as perceived general attitude problems.

Regardless, Neil Lennon was in no doubt about what the former Hibs loanee could offer his side in a recent interview, reported by STV:

Goals. I think he had a fantastic season last year and he's improved as a player. There's also tremendous scope for him to get better. He knows the environment and I think if he comes here we can improve him. He might change people's perceptions of him.

It's no secret the Hoops badly need a goalscoring striker. Attacking midfielder Kris Commons has thrived in the free role Lennon has given him this season, but too often is he relied upon as the only steady stream of goals.

All four first-team strikersAnthony Stokes, Teemu Pukki, Amido Balde and Bahrudin Atajichave collectively managed just 15 of Celtic's 75 goals this campaign.

Dataset: Transfermarkt

Admittedly, it is hard to chastise Balde or Atajic for this return. The former has scored three goals despite playing the equivalent of just under four matches, while youngster Atajic has one goal in his 23 minutes of first-team action.

Stokes and Pukki have notched just 11 goals between them during their combined 55 appearances.

Both prefer playing with a partner and tend to drop slightly deeper during matches. While the Irishman somewhat makes up for his unimpressive goals tally with his creative contributionseight assists so farneither have shown form particularly inspiring form in front of goal yet.

Elsewhere in the team, Georgios Samaras, infinitely more effective as a winger, has contributed eight goals. Unfortunately the club's second-highest scorer this campaign looks to be edging ever closer to the exit door at Parkhead, with STV reporting Trabzonspor are currently leading the chase.

Griffiths could potentially fill this goalscoring void.

The 23-year-old certainly knows how to find the net in his home nation: 46 goals from 89 matches in Scotland's three premier competitions proves that.

Dataset: Transfermarkt/WhoScored

What the Celtic support will want to know most, though, is can he do it in Europe? The honest answer is: no one knows. 

Until the day comes, Griffiths' ability to perform on the biggest stage will remain untested and unknown.

But Lennon coyly pointed to the precedent set by Scott McDonald and Gary Hooper when asked about this, correctly reminding everyone that neither player was signed from a big club (Motherwell and Scunthorpe United, respectively) yet both went on to contribute important goals in domestic and European competition.

Undoubtedly Hoops fans would prefer to see previously linked players like Heerenveen striker Alfred Finnbogason or Benfica playmaker Filip Djuricic arrive instead of a forward who most would characterise as talented, but with a questionable off-field attitude.

Keeping in mind the fact this is the January transfer window in a season that currently sees Celtic unbeaten domestically and at little risk of any serious competition, anything other than a young, relatively cheap option was about as likely as second-placed Aberdeen staging a smash-and-grab title win come May.

Ultimately, if Griffiths is brought in, manages to stay largely out of any negative publicity and contributes anywhere near the level of McDonald or Hooper, he will win over the majority of his doubters.


Twitter: @smarti51

Statistics via Transfermarkt, Soccerway and WhoScored.



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