The very telling Celtic stat which shows where problems lie

By Euan Davidson

May 7, 2021

Sometimes, to learn what’s tactically going on at Celtic, you have to look around.

So, to learn a very telling stat from a Dundee United supporting Twitter account is a new one, it’s fair to say. That doesn’t make it any less valid, however. Jaymes Monte [@ArabAnalytics] doesn’t just provide insight for the Tangerines, his studies into tactical trends around Scotland often make for interesting reading.

As it turns out, Celtic rank lowest in the Premiership in terms of winning the ball back from tackles this season. In other words, the Bhoys aren’t making enough successful tackles in our own half. We’re also not aggressive in winning the ball back from the front, however that is more down to keeping possession.

It’s an imperfect metric, but it’s an interesting one.

Hamilton are first, but that’s largely because they have more opportunities to win the ball back. Celtic cede far less possession of the ball. However, there’s still a lot to take from this; our midfield and defenders aren’t aggressive enough in winning the ball back.

Celtic midfielder Ismaila Soro / (Photo by Alan Harvey/SNS Group via Getty Images)

Why aren’t Celtic winning the ball back often enough?

What makes this particularly interesting is the fact that Celtic are sharing Ismaila Soro’s stats. While Soro has shown proficiency in winning the ball back, Scott Brown’s have decreased year on year [BBC]. In the same position, Soro has been prolifically breaking up play, but the rest of Celtic’s defensive players haven’t been at the same level.

In defence, the uncertainty over formations and ever-changing line-ups can be confusing. There may be set-ups where one centre back is encouraged to advance further up to win the ball back, and another might sit back. Given the sheer number of defensive combinations, keeping a fluidity and consistency has been next to impossible.

Odsonne Edouard is a surprisingly key player here. The French striker’s attitude is often called into question, but the lack of width has caused Eddy to come deeper to either try to win the ball back, or become involved in attacking movements. The use of David Turnbull and Ryan Christie sacrifices a ball-winning midfielder in one of the central positions, with neither Scotsman particularly talented at winning the ball back.

This’ll be a point of emphasis for the next Celtic manager. Having the lion’s share of possession skewers these stats somewhat, but the inability to win the ball back in our own half, or to press successfully from the front, are failings of previous regimes. It’s cost us in games this season.

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