Arnaud Djoum laments the fact Hearts head to Celtic Park this Saturday 13 points behind the league leaders, but is adamant that his side will add more consistency to their game next season and be genuine challengers for the Premiership title.
Since arriving in Scotland last September, the Belgian midfielder has seen little to convince him that Celtic are significantly stronger than his own team and rues the “stupid red cards” and lapses in concentration which he feels have cost Hearts a proper crack at winning the league this time round.
“I had heard that Celtic and Rangers used to be very dominant in Scottish football but now that is not the case,” he said. “The games we have played against Celtic this season have all been very close. I don’t sense that there is a big difference between us and them.
“I was talking with some of the other players and we were saying if we had just won an extra two or three of our tight games we would be right up near Celtic and maybe above Aberdeen.
“The difference is not big between the teams but we have had some stupid red cards which have given us bad results. It is small details that have cost us and we need to learn from that for next season and make sure we don’t drop so many stupid points because every point is important. We have to learn not to make the small mistakes.”
With further strengthening over the summer and the experience of this campaign under their belt, Djoum believes that Hearts will be well equipped to go for top spot next term.
“I am confident we can challenge Celtic next season,” he said. “This is our first season back in the top league so if we learn about the small details and have more concentration in every moment of the game, that will help us compete for the league. We have good fans and a good club and we will also get more experience from playing in the Europa League which can help us. We have to believe that next season we can challenge for the title.”
Hearts have drawn both league matches with Celtic this season. Djoum is optimistic about his side’s prospects of returning from Glasgow with three points this weekend and boosting their chances of overhauling second-place Aberdeen, whom they trail by nine points but still have a game in hand over them and are to play them twice.
“It’s going to be an important game for us because we still have the possibility to catch Aberdeen,” said the midfielder. “Celtic have not had a very big season and in the recent games, they have struggled a little so we have to believe that it is not impossible to get a good result. We have a good team with a lot of quality so it is possible to get a good result. We have to believe in ourselves.”