THE Scottish title race may still be too tight to call, but it is difficult to envisage Celtic's Henrik Larsson being denied the Player of the Year award whatever the outcome.

The Swede's seventeenth strike of the season set up Celtic for a resounding 5-1 victory over Dunfermline at Parkhead - but there is much more to Larsson's game than just scoring goals.

Head coach Wim Jansen has created a system whereby the absence of individuals can be

covered seamlessly, so aware are the entire squad of what each role in the team demands.

Jackie McNamara and Alan Stubbs have been outstanding this term, but David Hannah and Simon Donnelly replaced the injured pair with no loss of fluency in Celtic's play.

But the exception to the system must be Larsson. Without him, it is difficult to imagine the movement of the side not faltering, or their overall sharpness not being blunted.

When Jansen claims title talk should be silenced because injuries or suspensions cannot be predicted, one senses Larsson is at the forefront of his mind.

With Brian Laudrup and Paul Gascoigne both less productive this term than previously for Rangers, Larsson has emerged as the outstanding talent north of the Border.

New Ibrox hero Marco Negri is a more prolific finisher, but

merely completes a jigsaw. Without Larsson, Celtic could fall to pieces.

Jansen said: ''Henrik has been superb in the last month, but really has played well all season.

''He quickly develops an understanding with whoever plays around him and his early goal helped us as it meant Dunfermline had to come out.''

It is further to his credit that Larsson is modest when confronted with praise, insisting: ''It is never down to one person.

''Football is a team sport. The fact that the entire side is playing tremendously well makes it much easier for me.''

Larsson feels his own form has been helped by the ability of his colleagues to be on the same wavelength in the attacking third of the pitch.

He added: ''I'm not sure I'm playing my best ever. I had good periods early in my career in Sweden and later in Holland.

''But I must say there was perhaps not the same connection between the players.

''I feel they understand me a little better here.''

For that, Jansen's guiding hand is likely to play a part, with the Dutchman's ideas continuing to translate into success as Celtic pursue a domestic treble.

But Jansen's voice and his familiar mantra about the next match being all that matters can be heard in Larsson's pragmatic words.

''We must take each game on its own merits. The next one at Hibernian on Saturday is now the one we must focus on winning and not beyond that,'' said