January has been an eventful month for the two main football clubs of Glasgow – in vastly different ways. Aside from crashing out of the Scottish Cup to Dundee Utd, Rangers lurch ominously from one off-field bombshell to the next (as detailed by the superb Phil Mac Giolla Bhain and RTC) Neil Lennon meanwhile has been quietly grappling with the transfer window. Patiently stroking transfer target after transfer target off the list, the constraints of competing in the international market is painfully clear.
This window especially, sees player values exaggerated, partly due to supply – who wants to lose anybody midway through the season? And so for a sensible purchaser – that is, a club operating within it’s capabilities – it’s the bargain basement loans and free signings where the greatest value is to be found.
Hot prospects Rabiu Ibrahim and Mikael Lustig were snapped up for free, and are fine examples of Lennon and Peter Lawwell’s long-term ‘moneyball’ style transfer policy. Cheap, young and work in progress – buy low sell high. The loan acquisition of 28-year-old Paweł Brożek also fits the policy, albeit in a different manner. The value here, is in landing an experienced player without risk – Lawwell has managed to negotiate into the terms of the half-season loan, a future fee.
Paweł Brożek – brief scout report
In the relative comfort of the Polish Ekstraklasa, Paweł finished top scorer in seasons 2008-09 and 2009-10 playing for Wisla Krakow. His goalscoring form earned Brozek, along with his twin brother (a left-back), a move to Turkish Süper Lig giants Trabzonspor for an undisclosed fee.
In Brozek’s first full season, by the time of facing CSKA Moscow in the Champions League group stage, he had only managed 3 league starts and 1 goal – overwhelmingly due to the form of Burak Yilmaz, who has yielded an astonishing 25 goals in 22 matches.
Unfortunately, Halil Altintop and Paulo Henrique had been established as the next forwards in the pecking order. With the Champions League considered second fiddle to the Turkish Süper Lig (Trabzonspor were only involved due to Fenerbache’s match fixing scandal) Brozek was given a rare chance to stake a claim in the side.
With Yilmaz suspended, Brozek came on at half-time for off-form winger Alanzinho with CSKA already a goal ahead.
The substitution saw starting striker Altintop move wider left, reminiscent of Georgios Samaras’ favoured position for Celtic. Brozek took on the responsibility of focal point of the attack.
It’s well documented that Neil Lennon has been after another physical presence up top to provide competition and a ‘plan B’. But his new manager appreciates that Brozek is not that sought after target-man. “Pawel is a bit like Gary Hooper” Lennon said. “sharp with good feet, 5ft 10in and he knows where the goal is. He’s a bit like Maciej Zurawski was when he first came.”
Identifying a new targetman will have to wait, but the addition of Brozek will provide much needed proven backup to Hooper and Anthony Stokes. Cynics will doubt the need for a fourth striker (fifth if you include the injured Mo Bangura – out for the season), but it’s a well-known adage that to challenge on three or more fronts, four top class strikers is a minimum requirement.
The Luzhniki defence proved to be frustrating adversaries for Brozek, who toiled in – as new team-mates Stokes and Hooper refer to it – the graveyard shift, or the lone striker role. The service just wasn’t provided. While the right-back Ondrej Celustka was getting forward and overlapping well and the main playmaker Adrian Mierzejewski posed a tricky threat, no service was forthcoming for the isolated Brozek.
The hosts sat back, hitting aggressively on the counter, leaving no space in behind for darting runs on goal. Brozek’s preference instead, was to drop off the defenders, between the lines attempting to link-up play. The move allowed space to receive an initial pass, and then, after off-loading the ball purposefully, an opportunity for a running start on the opposition centre-backs.
An accurate return pass, however never came, making for an unrewarding evening. Trabzonspor suffered a real smash and grab, with the pace of Seydou Doumbia and Vagner Love on the counter ultimately the deciding factor. Altintop late-on, was moved back up front after spending much of the second half out wide. An attempt to take the load off Brozek to an extent, but it was too little too late.
Despite the result, sufficient information could be gleaned on Celtic’s new recruit. Quite simply direct, experienced backup to Hooper and Stokes, as Lennon warns “if one of them gets injured or suspended, we could be a goalscorer short — and Pawel is a goalscorer.” At only 5’10” he won’t be considered a targetman. But, his upper-body strength and ability in the air is an improvement on those two. He therefore might be seen as a more ‘complementary’ partner for one or the other.
Lennon cites the European Championships inPolandas an additional motivation, but unfortunately for Brozek his chance of impressing for his temporary new employer isn’t in his hands.