Boss: Kris plays well and whole Celtic team shine

HE'S the man who gives the lie to the theory you cannot make significant signings in the January transfer window.

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Kris Commons' performances have delighted Neil Lennon
Kris Commons' performances have delighted Neil Lennon

He's the attacking midfielder who proves you can hit 20 goals in a season, even if you are not an out-and-out striker.

He's the ever-green who undermines the belief that, when you reach 30, your best days are behind you.

Indeed, he's the Bhoy who can get even better, a prospect which will not go down too well with defenders already struggling to nullify his skill, power, shooting and effectiveness.

Step forward Kris Commons, the man who is making the league champions tick.

However, while Neil Lennon is delighted his £330,000 purchase from Derby County three years ago is clearly improving with age, he is strongly of the opinion that there is even more to come - and not just in terms of goals.

Having watched Commons bang in his 16th and 17th of the season in the rout of St Mirren - which took his goals tally since he scored against Aberdeen five minutes into his Hoops debut in January, 2011 to 51 - Lennon is loathe to find anything in his game which might be in need of improvement.

But he knows the way the man who hung up his international boots last year to focus on playing for his club and spending more time with his family thinks.

And he feels sure Commons will have already indulged in a quiet moment of introspection to see for himself where he can put an even sharper edge on his play.

"There are aspects of his game he can certainly make better," said Lennon.

"It's just that little bit of sharpness between the fringes of midfield and the striker area. His ball-retention, at times, could also be better.

"But we are nit-picking here on a player who is at the top of his game. And, I think that, the more he plays, like everything else, he will mature."

Lennon agrees that Commons will be a candidate for Player of the Year, if he maintains this form, though the Hoops boss diplomatically qualifies that by insisting the likes of Virgil van Dijk , Efe Ambrose and Scott Brown must also be contenders for any shortlist currently being drawn up.

While one man does not make a team, every so often it transpires that, when one individual is on song, the rest of the side hit the high notes.

That was the story once again when the Hoops all sung from the same hymn sheet in Paisley on Sunday.

Pulling the strings was Commons, and he stepped forward to finish off in style with the third and fourth goals as the squad head off to Turkey for a mid-season break feeling on top of the world.

However, as much as Lennon acknowledges and appreciates the influence Commons has on the team, he is also mindful of the danger attached to requiring any one player to be so instrumental in dictating how well they play.

If the opposition can snuff him out, the entire team can lose its mojo.

Which is why the re-emergence of James Forrest, after another series of niggling injuries, is so warmly welcomed by Lennon.

The youngster's pace, vitality and ability to drag two or three men into wide areas in an attempt to stop him allows the likes of Commons more room in which to operate in the middle of the park.

Lennon explained: "Kris is one of those who, if he plays well, the team plays well.

"Looking at it on Sunday at Paisley, with him and James Forrest in the mood, at times we were irresistible going forward. So, Kris needs a hand.

"And, certainly, with Jamesie coming back and showing the form we know he is capable of, that takes the pressure off Kris a little bit.Then he goes and scores two goals as well."

He went on: "When you consider he is not an out-and-out centre-forward, it just makes his goals contribution all the more remarkable.

"Anthony Stokes also played well, and that's what we are looking for, a little bit more thrust in the forward areas."

While the players who have carried the brunt of the load in the first half of a taxing season will spend most of their time in Turkey relaxing by the pool or on the golf course - where Commons is also a man to have on your side - Lennon will use the better conditions at their Belek training camp to work on making his side even more clinical.

Celtic are already the top scorers in the championship they now lead by 13 points.

But, for Lennon, a return of 45 goals from their opening 20 unbeaten games - though six better than they had at this stage last term and the best any Celtic team has accrued at this point in any of his four seasons as boss - does not accurately reflect the positive approach they have adopted in these matches.

Too many good chances have been spurned, as not enough players have matched the finishing ability of Commons, who has hit the net more than twice as often as anyone else in the Hoops.

Finally having played everyone in the division - St Mirren got their first taste of Celtic's power at the weekend after their opening match against the champions was postponed in August to allow the Hoops to play Liverpool in Dublin - Lennon knows how important it is to keep evolving.

His defence needs little work, having racked up eight domestic clean sheets in a row with the victory at St Mirren Park, where the home side were so well contained that they did not manage to get a single shot on target.

But Lennon still views his attack as a work in progress and confirmed: "We need to vary the way we attack. For that, we need to be flexible. And we are flexible in the way we can change formation.

"On Sunday, for example, we went back to an old system we used for quite a while and just made sure we had plenty of width from Jamesie."

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