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Celtic: Hatem Abd Elhamed is a natural right-back, insists Neil Lennon

Celtic: Hatem Abd Elhamed is a natural right-back, insists Neil Lennon

Celtic manager Neil Lennon launched an impassioned defence of new signing Hatem Abd Elhamed, insisting that he is a natural right-back despite playing mostly as a centre-back at previous club Hapoel Be’er Sheva.

The Daily Record reported quotes from Lennon stating that the Israel international can readily adapt to either role and would not be out of his comfort zone if played at right-back.

As reported in the Daily Record, Lennon said: “These people who say he’s not an out and out right-back have probably never seen him play before.

“He started his career as a right-back and at times he’s played as a centre-half. When I watched him the last four or five games of last season he played right-back. He can play both positions very, very comfortably.”

Abd Elhamed completed his move to Celtic on Wednesday for a fee of £1.6million, as reported by The Scottish Sun, and Celtic’s official Twitter profile posted news of his arrival with the text “Right back…Announced“.

This led to derisive responses from some Hoops supporters, with these Celtic fans disputing the player’s right-back status [via HITC].

Abd Elhamed has played 90 games in the last three seasons for Hapoel Be’er Sheva and Ashdod, with 75 of those (83.3% of total) coming from centre-back, as reported by Herald Scotland [with data from Wyscout].

In those 90 games, he was at right-back in only eight (8.9%) and played there just twice in 27 appearances (7.4%) last season [via Herald Scotland, with data from Wyscout].

Abd Elhamed’s arrival at least provides greater competition for Anthony Ralston, who had been the only genuine right-back in Lennon’s squad.

The 20-year-old is still in the infancy of his career, with only 15 senior appearances at Celtic, the same number of games he played in each of his loan spells at Queen’s Park and Dundee United.

Abd Elhamed has scored four goals and provided one assist in 61 games in the last two seasons, an average of 0ne goal every 15.25 games suggesting that, for someone who is supposedly comfortable playing at right-back, he does not contribute much in an attacking sense.

By way of comparison, Ralston scored once in his five appearances for Celtic (0.2 per game) in 2018/19, although he did not supply any assists.

That Ralston was on the bench for both legs of the Champions League qualifying tie against Sarajevo but did not play, while being omitted completely from the matchday squad against Nomme Kalju on Wednesday, suggests that Lennon does not see him as being the long-term solution at right-back.

Indeed, the manager went with a 3-5-2 setup against the Estonian champions, a deviation from the 4-5-1 used in the Sarajevo games, preferring not to employ a right-back at all.

Abd Elhamed would appear to be Lennon’s preference for that position, given his staunch defence of the player and his reluctance to use Ralston, but the statistics don’t match up with Lennon’s insistence that the Israel defender is a natural at right-back. Time will tell whether the Celtic manager can alter that perception.

Celtic fans, do you think Abd Elhamed could be a good fit at right-back or does it remain a problematic position? Share your thoughts by commenting below!

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Article title: Celtic: Hatem Abd Elhamed is a natural right-back, insists Neil Lennon

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