Celtic introduced Greg Taylor slowly, it’s fair to say.
Brought in alongside Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo in the summer of 2019, both were exciting prospects. Bolingoli had impressed in Austria with Rapid Vienna, while Taylor was a regular for Kilmarnock.
Having made his Scotland debut before joining the Bhoys, fans knew that he wasn’t Kieran Tierney. He was, and is, however a young talent with an excellent work-rate. That said, it took months for Taylor to become fully integrated at his new team.
Something of a forgotten man during his first six months, Taylor impressed in Dubai in January of 2020. From then on, he started to make more regular appearances, but a mainstay he wasn’t. He only made 12 appearances in the league for Celtic last season [Transfermarkt]. It’s only January, and he’s already surpassed that tally.
Despite the presence of Uruguay international Diego Laxalt, Lennon has preferred Taylor over recent weeks. The left-back is best as part of a back 4, and he’s shone in the system. Supporters were delighted by his performance against Hamilton this week, and it’d be shocking if he didn’t feature from the start against St. Mirren.
Celtic left-backs Greg Taylor and Diego Laxalt: a comparison
Taylor’s performances have undoubtedly passed the eye test, but his stats are impressive for a left-back. According to statistical experts WhoScored?, the Scotland international has managed 4 assists this season, making almost 50 passes a game and connecting on 80.4%.
1.6 key passes a game is also fantastic from a defender. He makes 1.1 tackles a game, and only has one yellow card this season.
By comparison, Diego Laxalt hasn’t set up any goals for Celtic this season. His passing percentages are noticeably worse, only averaging 0.4 key passes a game. Additionally, he averages 2.2 fouls per game, collecting 3 yellows in 20-21.
Objectively, Taylor has been better than a 24-cap Uruguayan international. The competition has been excellent for him, and he should be an automatic starter for Neil Lennon.
Defensively and offensively, Taylor’s season marks a huge improvement on last campaign. He makes the team more threatening, providing opportunities from the left flank with his running and accurate distribution. With Callum McGregor offering support on the left-side of the defence, Taylor has had more licence to maraud forward; supposedly a speciality of Laxalt’s.
In an interview with BT, Taylor spoke about his development.
The left-back said [BT]:
“Learning-wise, I speak to the coaches every day and learn that way. There’s also analysis of my own performances and what I can do better.
“And if Diego plays, he’ll probably do the same.
“It’s competition and there’s a jersey up for grabs – it’s one I want to keep.
“We got the win against Hamilton and a clean sheet, hopefully it’s enough for me to keep the jersey for the next game.”
With an excellent work ethic, Taylor has made the most of his opportunities this season. While Diego Laxalt initially impressed despite the team’s bad performances, he hasn’t been consistent enough. Certainly, the A.C. Milan defender is a good squad option, but Taylor has to be starting.
With limited numbers in defence, Lennon has many decisions to make. But consistency is key here, and Taylor has earned his place.