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Jason Denayer - A Celtic Perspective

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Many of us are wondering what our deadline day loan signing Jason Denayer is actually like. Mainly, is he any good? Well, during the 2014/15 season, Denayer spent the campaign at Celtic, so who better to ask than our friends at Talk Celtic? Rory spoke with Lewis Monaghan to find out more about the Belgian centre half.

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Denayer won Young Player Of The Year during his spell at Celtic Park, forming a good partnership with Virgil van Dijk. So it's clear that his time at Celtic was well spent. What would you say his main strengths are?

From his time up here it is pretty evident that he is your archetypal modern day centre back. He is composed, fast, and seriously good on the ball. He was only 19 when he came up here and is a couple more years down the line now, however even then it was clear that his reading of the game is excellent for such a young and relatively inexperienced player. We had heard comparisons with Kompany before he arrived (for obvious reasons) but from the start you could see why. Him and Van Dijk complemented each other beautifully.  Although we didn't see huge success in Europe that year and there were defensive lapses, it is probably the best CB pairing I have witnessed supporting Celtic, in terms of being good to watch, anyway.

I'd say he is a pretty good goal threat from set pieces as well, he popped up with 6 that season. Okay, it is the SPL but if Moyes is looking to utilise set pieces he definitely has the ability to sniff out chances when coming up from the back.  I mentioned his ability on the ball there and his passing from the back is a serious asset to have. He is very similar to Van Dijk in that he rarely looks flustered and has the ability to beat players and pick out someone from the midfield to keep play going.

Technically, he has very few weaknesses for a player in his area of the park. Denayer could very easily play in midfield, in my opinion. Aerially he is ok, not as dominant as some CB's but he cannot help that due to his size. He is hardly a weakling though and will win his fair share. His timing of the tackle was always very good too and he was rarely rash or slack in his challenges. Pace and technique are his main strengths though, for sure.

Overall, Jason is quite a well rounded centre back with areas of his game that can be ironed out.

Following on from that, what could the young defender improve on during his time on Wearside?

In terms of weaknesses, as I mentioned there, his height is perhaps a slight worry when playing in a league such as the Premier League. If he comes up against bigger, more physical players and teams who like to lump it, he may struggle. This isn't exactly something he can just improve on though, for obvious reasons.

Going to a team like Sunderland as well, he will have to learn how to defend first and foremost. As you might have seen in the Euros he can still be slightly naive at times and had a bit of a stinker in the Wales game defensively. Up here with Celtic we always have the majority of the ball and are on the attack for 90% of games so it is a different prospect altogether. In truth, there weren't a lot of games where he was seriously tested domestically.

I think in general he can improve on every aspect of his game as he is obviously only 21 but all the tools are there for him to be a top centre back in the modern game. He's fast, good on the ball, reads the game, decent heading ability and strong in the tackle. Playing in a team who will be on the defensive in a lot of games (no offence) will help him no end. It will be a big learning curve for him.

We obviously need him to hit the ground running, did he make an immediate impact at Celtic?

Yes, he scored and was Man of The Match on his debut against Dundee United, so it was as instant an impact as you could get!Jason played 44 games overall and was near enough an ever present for the full season. Him and Virgil were a big loss after that year and contributed big time to us struggling last season.

The Premier League will be a different prospect as I keep saying but there have been plenty of worse players down your way who have forged careers. He has the attributes to be a success, with the right direction.

When he was at Celtic, Denayer was playing for the strongest team in the league but that will be far from the case at Sunderland. Will playing for a team that is up against it more often be detrimental to him? Or does he have the confidence to not let that affect him?

This links in with what I mentioned in the second question. He has yet to be tested in a side who will be on the back foot in many games, his loan move to Galatasaray saw him playing in a similar environment to up here, with one of the countries top sides. I don't think it will be detrimental as such, but it will certainly be a new experience and something that will improve him as a player. His technical ability might not count for much at times when you are up against it so his defensive qualities will then be tested.

Denayer has the ability and mentality to handle it though. No question. When he was up here he came across as being very professional and eager to learn, always a good sign for a guy at 19 years old, as he was at the time. I think the choice of partner next to him could have a big impact on just how much of a success he is. As I say, Van Dijk helped him a lot. He might take a few games to settle but I'd say be patient and you are bound to see his qualities shine through.

Due to his partnership with Van Dijk, people have drawn obvious comparisons between the two. Is that accurate or is there someone else you'd liken him to?

Technique wise, they are very similar. Both good on the ball, fast, good range of passing, can stride out of the back with ease if given the time and space. There are obviously differences though between the two.

For one, Van Dijk is a man mountain at 6ft 4 and has the ability to just shrug players off like they aren't even there. Denayer is different in stature and a good bit smaller but I'd say defensively he can be just as good on his day. It is hard to compare him with Virgil now with the big man having played one terrific season in the English Premier League. It remains to be seen whether Denayer can emulate that.

Virgil has pretty much every tool you want in a player and he could literally play anywhere on the field and not look out of place. I'd say they complemented each other well, while still bringing different qualities to the table.

Any standout memories of Denayer during his spell at Celtic?

For me I will remember when we played Rangers at Hampden for the first time in a few years and him and Van Dijk absolutely strolled it. Never even broke a sweat. Overall though, I'd say the standout memory was his entire season! Denayer was very, very consistent throughout and if I'm honest hugely surprised me, even though he was coming up here having already been highly rated. I can recall many Celtic fans claiming he was better defensively than Van Dijk and in time, that may prove to be true. He needs the experience first though and Sunderland will give him that. I said at the time that I believed he would be at a top side in 5 years time and I still believe that.

Finally, in your opinion, will he be success at Sunderland?

I think so, yes. Denayer has had a few years of first team experience now for some big clubs and is becoming a regular in the Belgian national side. He will make mistakes, yes, but you have to remember he is still only 21 and learning the game. He himself has spoken about the move improving him as a player and I think it definitely will. His pace and ability on the ball is a huge asset to have back there and I feel it is a smart move by Moyes.

Thanks to Lewis for his time. You can follow him on Twitter and check out Talk Celtic on their website.