Ange improvement clear to see as Celtic lead the way in Scottish Premiership stat

By Euan Davidson

November 19, 2021

It doesn’t take a tactical genius to figure out that getting into the opposition’s box is a good thing – and Celtic are the best at doing it in Scottish Premiership under Ange Postecoglou.

Last season, Celtic fans were left frustrated. While the team managed to get the ball into dangerous areas, there were still far too many pot-shots from distance. Occasionally, they’d go in, but Ryan Christie and to a lesser extent David Turnbull were criticised heavily for it.

Now, it’s all about flooding the opposition’s defensive area. Celtic, according to stats guru Jaymes Monte [@ArabAnayltics], are doing it more than anyone other Scottish Premiership team.

Excluding set-pieces and throw-ins, Celtic are getting into the opponent’s box 12.69 times per 90 minutes. Of those entries, 32% are from the left, 25% are central, and 43% come from the right.

Here’s a handy graphic to explain it all:

What does it actually mean, though? Well, it means a few things. The first is that Celtic are using possession better. We’ve been controlling games domestically, boasting as much as 81% against Dundee [Fotmob] and 79% against St Johnstone [Fotmob].

But more importantly, that possession is turning into threat and chances. That’s an improvement over last season, certainly.

Furthermore, it means that Abada might – in some respects – be our most important attacking player this season. The majority of movements into the opposition box have been from his side.

He may not grab the headlines like Kyogo and Jota, but he’s been extremely purposeful against the left-backs marking him.

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Celtic lead Scottish Premiership for attacking stat; what does it actually mean?

It also means that Ange Postecoglou’s tactical approach is working. That’s clear in the way we’re scoring goals, dominating possession and not conceding many at the other end.

While yes, in games like the one against Livingston, some of the build-up play can be a bit slow, the majority of the time it’s working. Through the use of inverted wingers, the opposition midfield are being outnumbers. That gives license for attacking players to maraud into more dangerous positions on the pitch.

If it sounds like nerdy stats-chat then maybe it is. But the proof is in what we see on the pitch. Nobody could reasonably argue we aren’t creating way more chances and playing with more intent this season, compared to last. Surely.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Abada, as mentioned, comes off well here. As a more direct winger, he’s happy cutting inside and taking on defenders. That’s been our most common route for getting the ball into the box.

It’s also a bit of a warning for tomorrow, looking at St Johnstone. They have a clear preference for crosses, barely utilising the middle of the box in build-up play and touches.

Celtic will have to be prepared for that. But yes; it’s another stat that bodes well for the future, and it’s something that our chief tactician Ange Postecoglou can surely take some satisfaction from.

Although, probably, he’ll never admit that.

“I don’t pop champagne corks over stats, mate”, he’d likely say.

Read more: “They’re not going to fear anyone”; Celtic boss shows respect to Cup Double winners