The word is that Daniel Arzani was hooked from the Reserves match this week and sent to train with the Celtic first team. He won’t be part of their Europa League game tomorrow, but he might feature against Hearts in the League Cup on Monday.
Arzani's prospects for getting his Celtic debut improved when it emerged that Tom Rogic was out of the team. That would be a major disappointment for young Daniel as, much as he would love to get on the pitch at Tynecastle, he’s good mates with his compatriot and would doubtless prefer to play alongside him.
Australian fans have been somewhat bemused that it’s taken so long for Arzani to get a game in Scotland. He set the A-League alight last year and then dazzled off the bench in Russia as the youngest player at the tournament. Why isn’t he playing?
All sorts of conspiracy theories have circled regarding “Rodgers not wanting him”; “Rodgers deliberately not playing him because he’s at war with the Chairman (Peter Lawwell) and Arzani is Lawwell’s signing)”; “Arzani was born at Area 51 after a spaceship from the planet Fitba crashed there”.
The truth is that Arzani is still only 19 and needed to learn the Celtic way among a bunch of seasoned professionals who’ve won seven (I think) Premierships in a row. It’s never easy to break into such a team and it’s very much to young Daniel’s credit that instead of sulking, he’s put his head down and trained like a house on fire.
That’s exactly the attitude any manager worth his salt would’ve been looking for so there’s every chance he’ll get a shot against Hearts on Monday. Hearts (featuring a number of Aussies) are the current SPL leaders so it may not happen – a tight game reduces the likelihood of him coming off the bench, but you never know. Rodgers certainly needs creative players and if he’s denied Rogic he could do worse than play Arzani.
While very different players they do have a couple of things in common. They both get a lot of assists and both will ALWAYS beat the first man. Arzani is probably faster than Rogic and is a lot flashier, but he doesn’t have Rogic’s shot. Not many do.
If Arzani does get his chance I truly hope he plays with his usual panache and isn’t tempted into a conservative shell by the occasion. He could hardly be blamed. His arrival has been very heavily hyped and the hordes of Aussies getting onto Celtic forums and talking him up has put a lot of pressure on him.
I reckon he’ll be fine. The young man who said he’d nutmeg Pogba if he got a shot against France has already played on the biggest stage of all so he won’t be fazed at Hearts in the League Cup.
A Celtic star is about to be born.
Adrian’s latest book The Fighting Man is in the shops right now or available through Booktopia. Adrian also wrote Mr Cleansheets.