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A Bad Start But A Blazing Finish: How Celtic Drove Over The Critics To Stay Top At The End Of October.

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Off the back of the Hibs match, which saw us end September with a draw, we kicked off October with a great result against CFR Cluj in the Europa League which gave the fans a big lift.

But this was short lived as Livingston decided to bully and frustrate our back line in the following game.

It was not an ideal result going into the international break, and it was compounding by the fact we went 2nd in the league.

But we came back strong – very strong – from the international break, taking scalps off Ross County, Lazio, Aberdeen and St Mirren, and scoring 14 goals in those 4 games.

We really put that Livingston result behind us and marched on, to end the month back at the top of the Premier League table, and keeping our top spot in the Europa League group.

This is our monthly look at how each player in the side did in that spell.

Fraser “La Gran Muralla” Forster

One of the reasons we’re top right now is that although we scored 16 goals in October, big Forster let in just three. Two of those came against Livingston and the other one was against Lazio.

Being the only goalkeeper used in October, there can’t be too many complaints.

Maybe some kick outs that make you suck oxygen, but 2 moments against Lazio showed exactly why the Spanish gave him the nickname The Great Wall … those incredible reflex saves that ensured us 3 points in the Europa League.

There were, to be sure, spells during this month where he would have been as well bringing a deck chair, but just knowing he’s there has given the defence a shot in the arm. We surely have to be already asking the big question… can we keep him?

Grade – A

Boli Bolingoli –Mbombo

The most glaring “mistake” he made in October was being caught out of position for the Lazio game, but I have to put mistake in quotation marks for the simple reason that he was sticking to Lennon’s plan and was in an attacking position as a result, so I don’t even feel that is as big a mistake.

But if we had lost that game because of that goal, I’d most likely not be so quick to justify it.

Apart from that, Boli really has been a solid player all the way through October, making some great runs, setting up goals and his best asset … he never goes hiding.

The main problem he seems to have is that his short passing at times leaves a bit to be desired; there were a few times in October where his slack passing could have got us into some bother.

But the days when James was joking that, “His name is Boli / Bolingoli / he moves like / a shopping trolley” are definitely over.

Grade – B+

Greg Taylor

Finally… I get to add Greg’s name to my monthly reports.

Taylor got 88 mins under his belt against St Mirren in a game where he wasn’t asked much defensively as St Mirren played with 10 men behind the ball for most of the match.

He looked solid enough and made some good runs up the wing. He didn’t really make a massive claim for the jersey but looks like a decent back up for Boli if needed to be called upon.

Grade – B

Kristoffer “Bambi Legs” Ajer

October has been a quieter month for Ajer, without any stand out performances or glaring mistakes.

He has been very solid at the back , and the only really noticeable error I can remember is possibly being out of position for the first Livingston goal, although I’m not sure if that was under instruction from Lennon or poor positioning.

Grade – B

Christopher Julien

Proving he is worth every penny of that transfer fee every month, and the only time I have seen him rattled or frustrated this month was against Livingston, where their forward seemed to have got under his skin and constantly frustrated him during the game.

Apart from that Julien has been solid at the back in the rest of the games, and has also been showing a real eye for a quality long pass, with the pin point accuracy of a seasoned sniper.

We also saw the emergence of Julien’s fight to get a goal; he looked like a man possessed every time the ball came into the box from a set piece.

He finally got his rewards scoring against Lazio and sealing the 3 points

Grade – B+

Hatem Abd Elhamed

For such a good player , the month of October saw his game time reduced, being kept for the biggest matches .

In spite of being lined up against Cluj and Lazio, I honestly can’t say he has put a foot wrong in these matches, and his lack of game time is also down the sheer quality we have to replace him.

Watching Elhamed at the Cluj game was a joy. He has a lot of tricks in his bag and shows no fear taking players on.

Just basing his performance off those two games, he really does show a real level of class.

Grade – B

Moritz Bauer

Two games, 1 loss and 1 win.

It seems a bit odd how the loanee has now fallen down the pecking order to be seen as 3rd choice, but he does seem to put a shift in, although with the Livingston game that was one to forget from most of the team.

In that game Moritz didn’t do much wrong, but didn’t really show too much either, and for me it was the same in the St Mirren game. He did his job and went home after.

I genuinely don’t mean that in a bad way, but like Taylor, he is a suitable back up.

Grade – C+

Jeremie ‘Oh My Gosh” Frimpong

One of the most exciting youth prospects we have brought in, who has been so impressive in the development games that Lennon was not able to hold him back any longer from first team football.

In October he has proven that he not only fits in the first team, but has exceeded even the fans expectations.

Playing not like a youthful prospect, but like the complete package, taking on players, not hiding if he loses the ball, never showing any signs of nervousness and has such enthusiasm that its contagious.

When Frimpong gets on the ball the fans get on their feet; we already know we have a special player here and he even topped his performance off against Aberdeen with his first goal.

This boy is going to go far, and I’m genuinely excited for the coming months to see how well he will do. One of the stand players of the month for me.

Grade – A+

Scott “Broony” Brown

Our leader, our captain, doing what he does best.

He is the engine room of Celtic, driving the team.

Even in our loss to Livingston he still puts the blood and guts performance in, but it was against Lazio that we were shown again the world class level he plays at.

Every game he proves why the captains armband is his.

We see him talking to players, giving players advice and even pulling players up who aren’t pulling their weight. For me I honestly can’t see him ever hanging his boots up with his current form, even at his age. Like a fine wine he really is getting better as he is getting older, and long may that continue.

Grade – A

Callum McGregor

Our technician in the midfield, but a player who has divided some of the fans this season, with many who think he’s been poor, and others who thinks he’s burned out.

But for me, I can see he’s been pushed a bit further back.

Yet he keeps the play going, picking out passes and creating attacking options for the front line. He may not have been as exciting in midfield as he was last year, but he is doing some of the important work of keeping the team moving and moving forward.

Folks shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss his work rate.

Grade – B+

Olivier Ntcham

Used as a sub during October.

In the Cluj game he was thrown in when the game was all but done, but he came on for Christie to see the game out.

He came on for Brown in the Livingston game when we were chasing the game from two goals down and didn’t make much of an impact.

Then came on for Brown again against St Mirren when we were two goals up and didn’t manage to make much of an impact.

For such a skilful player he had a very quiet October.

Grade – C

Nir Bitton

Made a short appearance for the last 25 minutes of the Ross County game, not long after we scored our sixth goal.

He came on for McGregor when the game was all but done as a contest.

Came in and kept it tight, but didn’t have to do much at that point.

Grade – C

Maryan Shved

Came on a couple minutes against County after Bitton did, replacing Forrest.

The only noticeable part of his appearance was Scott Brown having to pull him up for not putting in a shift.

Didn’t look that interested and in all honesty in that 25 minutes he showed why he wasn’t getting much game time. If you wanted to impress you could chase down balls, even six goals up, and particularly as you are coming on for your domestic home debut.

Show something … a spark or a bit of fight. It left me feeling quite disappointed with him.

We actually don’t even have a useable picture of him yet … says it all.

Grade – F

Lewis Morgan

Came on for Edouard for the last eight minutes in the St Mirren game, ran on the pitch, saw out the minutes, then came off at full time.

Grade – D

Jonathon “C’mon it’s Johnny” Hayes

Another in the long line of our subs in October, but he always puts in a shift and this month was no exception.

He brought in to see games out and doesn’t let us down, although it is good to him coming on more as an attacking option replacing Forrest and Elyounoussi.

I really think he should be appreciated more by fans personally as gives his all, even as a squad player.

Grade – B

Mohammed “Moy” Elyounoussi

Moy set his marker down in October and showed the level he is at, a real quality attacking option who managed to grab 5 goals and a couple of man of the match performances in October.

It’s easy to see why he was bought for £16 million.

Every game he played in October he made a big impression.

Grade – B+

Tom Rogic

With Christie being out suspended, it led the way for big Tam to get a run out, playing a pivotal role in attacking midfield against Ross County, playing out 25 minutes against Lazio replacing Elyounoussi, helping change the game with Lennon’s formation change to lead us to the 2 1 victory.

Then he was part of the demolition of Aberdeen, pulling the strings on the attacking side of the midfield. It’s starting to look like we are getting the magician back .

Grade B+

Ryan Christie

One game in the month is a game he will want to forget… being sent off against Livingston for what was a pretty reckless tackle meaning he missed two domestic games through suspension.

But even with that he still put in his usual shift against Cluj, Lazio and St Mirren.

His biggest goal of the month was the equaliser against Lazio which also earned him the man of the match.

Grade – C+

James Forrest

As usual popping up with goals in the games against Ross County, Aberdeen and St Mirren .

Proving why he is so instrumental to our team.

Putting strong performances every game working up and down the wing while also adding additional attacking threat.

Grade – A

Vakoun Issouf Bayo

Came on for Forrest to give us an extra attacking option upfront when we were chasing the game against Livingston.

Then came on for Edouard when we were 5 goals up against Ross County and made a 20 min appearance against Aberdeen when we were on easy street.

In all honesty he’s not really making a big impact and right now we really need to have some decent backup in the striking department so we don’t over use Edouard, but right now it wouldn’t feel overly confident in Bayo being that back up

Grade – C+

Odsonne “French Eddie” Edouard

Our £9 million striker proving time and time again why we paid that amount for him.

When he has the ball time seems to go in slow motion and he makes everything he does look so simple.

He bagged three goals in October, but as we all know his strength isn’t just about scoring goals, it’s being part of the build up and the amount assists he has had for goals.

We are seeing that he is that special type of player that we should really enjoy the time he is with us.

Grade – A

Neil Lennon

Overall in October there can’t be any complaints on team selection.

Even when we lost to Livingston I think it was the ideal set up, and I still think we’d have won but for a mistake by Christie.

But Lennon was instrumental in the victory over Lazio, changing to a 3 5 2 formation and minutes later we equalise and go on to win the game.

We have been entertained with his Lennyball type tactics and getting the best out of his players, his press conferences before and after the games have been a breath of fresh air and he has given us hope in Europe again.

Proving at the current time his appointment was well deserved

Grade – A+

Ross McAtasney is a Celtic blogger and fan from Glasgow. This is his third report card.

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