Celtic sit next to Manchester City and La Liga giants in stat that's crucial to Ange approach

By Euan Davidson

March 10, 2022

Celtic, just like Manchester City or Real Madrid, love to dominate the opposition half.

It’s all about working opportunities inside the box, toying with the opposition in their own half, and making sure there are plenty of opportunities to see off domestic competition. It’s a crucial part of Ange Postecoglou’s approach at Celtic – pressing from the front, controlling the ball and making use of it.

According to the stat experts at CIES Football Observatory, Celtic are passing the ball in the opposition third at an elite level. Only Ajax, Shakhtar Donetsk and Manchester City lead the Bhoys for accurate passes in the opposition third [CIES Performance Stats].

Photo by Chris Brunskill/Fantasista/Getty Images

CIES, whose performance index is a very useful barometer for trends in football, has Celtic sitting 4th of all the leagues they cover. The Bhoys average a frankly ridiculous 256.3 accurate passes in the opposition third per game. Real Madrid, meanwhile, are the next best, with 235.

It’s unsurprising that Ajax sit top, given the long-ingrained footballing culture there. However, this really is a mark of the improvement under Ange Postecoglou. Admittedly, there are caveats; the level of opposition being the main one.

However, it shows that what Postecoglou is focusing on – keeping the ball high up and playing it crisply – is paying dividends. Although the Celtic boss describes himself as a “pen and paper” manager, this’ll surely be pleasing.

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Celtic compare well with Manchester City and Real Madrid – surely Ange Postecoglou will like that

Obviously, stats aren’t everything. You can play a million accurate passes anywhere you like, it doesn’t necessarily equal goals and wins.

Celtic, though, have been passing the ball with almost unerring verve and accuracy this season, though. It’s not even necessarily about short or long, it’s the right pass. And there are definitely enough players in the squad who can be relied upon to make good decisions.

James Forrest, for example, connects with 88.9% of his passes. For a winger, that’s phenomenal. David Turnbull, always the creative type when moving the ball, ranks only slightly lower, at 88.6%. From the full-back positions, Greg Taylor and Josip Juranovic can often be found near the opposition touchline, and their passing stats are only slightly lower [WhoScored?].

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

A lot of of this is down to squad building. Ange Postecoglou wants his players up high in the opposition end, keeping the ball and working the space. But you need the personnel to do that, players who can either unlock defences or keep a move going with a simple ball.

Postecoglou has plenty of those. That’s the beauty of it.

Is anyone saying Celtic are on the level of Manchester City or Real Madrid? No. But in terms of what Ange Postecoglou is building, both teams represent a pretty excellent benchmark, in terms of approach and success in their strategy.

Read more: The crucial Celtic squad trait that’s being undervalued