Over on CQN this morning, Paul Brennan has penned an editorial about the summer transfer window of 2020. I don’t know if it’s supposed to be part alibi for the disaster that this one looks like it’s going to be, but it does touch on a subject which has long been of interest to me; the decision we made to go with Albian Ajeti rather than Ivan Toney.
Ajeti, according to Paul, was the “unanimous” choice of the scouting department and the management team. He had an excellent scoring record prior to going to England.
He also had experience in the Champions League. Toney was playing League One football at the time, and although he was banging them away that question remained; could he do it at a higher level? Did he have the ability to step up to the mark?
There are players all over football who perform well at a lower level, but with strikers there’s an obvious thing which hints at their chances; their goals to games ratio.
Toney’s was exceptional. Ajeti’s was also very decent. There was an argument for either of them, and I understand that Champions League experience factor being a tipping point … but there was one glaring piece of evidence that was ignored.
He did fail in England, and failed utterly. So when the time came to step up, Albian Ajeti hadn’t come close to doing it. Toney was still unproven, but anyone who watched him knew that he was going to make it and that some club would take a punt on him and get it right.
Ironically, the use of the words “take a punt on him” have proven to be a source of unintentional humour. His 11 month ban for gambling shows you that not everything about a player is to be found in the stats. But those stats now include goals in the top league in England and international recognition. He is, as was obvious at the time, a top footballer.
Mathias Kvistgaarden is 21 and plays in Denmark.
There is no great scoring record to look at and say “well we’re getting someone who has proved he can put the ball in the net.”
And you have to wonder, if the guy has only nine goals in his native land, not a top league by any manner of means, is he really going to set the heather on fire even in Scotland?
Strikers score goals. This is a self evident fact.
I Googled the list of the top scorers in the Danish League last season and he is so far down that I started checking out the other players who finished higher than he did, and there are a lot of them. It is really hard to justify paying this kind of money for a guy who finishes this far behind the guys at the top end of the scoring charts there.
I may be being unfair. It was his breakthrough season, and all told he got stronger and stronger as it went on, ending with a flurry of goals and assists and performances which had everyone talking.
But at 21 this is a project signing, and there can’t really be any dispute about that.
With a striker, you want to see that form over an extended period, and yes I get that Denmark is one of the most scouted leagues in Europe and any halfway decent player is soon snapped up … but really, this is a time when our club needs to get these signings absolutely right and some risky prospect like this just leaves me cold.
Our club has a dreadful habit of taking mad punts on strikers who don’t score regularly. Football scouting is much harder than it looks and sounds, and there’s a whole lot that goes in to recommending a player … but when it comes to strikers that criteria – does he score goals, regularly? – is the big giveaway and matters more than any other.
So if we’ve offered £4 million for this guy, I have to say that I’m more than just a little bit surprised. I said in a previous piece that if we thought he was worth the money we shouldn’t be messing about.
Bring him in, and hope he can do the job.
If we see him as a backup – or God forbid another “project” – then he’s not worth that in the first place and we should move on.
The more I look at the guy’s record, the more I think it’s a huge risk to pay that money no matter who is doing the recommending because that record, that sustained record, for putting the ball in the net just isn’t there.
He doesn’t have anything like Ajeti’s prior strike rate, or that of Toney.
Don’t get any ideas that this guy is some kind of battering ram either; he’s 5’8 which is a clear sign that this is some Celtic scouting department recommendation and not someone the manager has identified to fit his style of play.
The manager wants pace and power. Does a 5’8 forward suggest those things?
I cannot say this enough; if we’re going to sign players the most important thing is that they fit into the way the manager wants us to play. If they don’t then they are no use to us and are essentially going to rot in the stands or on the bench.
We are a club which prides itself on being prudent with its money; I am ever amazed how much of it we’ve squandered on these sorts of risks.
We have about four or five priority positions to fill in this squad and any money we waste in one position is money not going somewhere else in the team. And in my view, looking at this guy properly, I wonder whether it makes any sense at all.
I want a striker signed in this window; everyone knows that and I’m not saying that this would not be a good one … but we can’t spend that on yet another backup or a project, not when there’s so much work to do and not when the manager says we need old heads and proven quality, and there’s no way we can argue that he’s that.
If we spend that on a striker it’s worth bearing in mind that it’s what Kyogo cost us and if we’re going down that road we better have a player ready to challenge for his place. Otherwise, like much of our transfer business this summer it looks like a deal done to fill someone else’s needs other than the manager’s.