It’s hard to put your finger on exactly it hasn’t worked out for Shane Duffy at Celtic.
Certainly, he’s made mistakes. For an assured, Ireland captain with Premier League experience, his nerves in the Green and White were confounding. Admittedly, Duffy has had no shortage of problems to seek off the pitch, yet he never looked his assured self on the pitch.
But the foremost quality that Shane Duffy has in his locker? Aerial ability. For sure, you’d have expected the Irishman to fit in seamlessly in a tall defence next to Kristoffer Ajer and Christopher Jullien. On paper, it was a signing that made complete sense, regardless of the fee involved.
And in terms of that aerial prowess, he’s dominated the league. By some considerable distance. In a Scotsman summary of the season in stats, Craig Fowler reported [Scotsman]:
“Though there are obviously other flaws to his game, Celtic’s Shane Duffy is the league’s most dominant player in the air and it’s not even close. The Irishman has been successful on 83.24 per cent of his aerial duels.
“In second place is Ross County’s Coll Donaldson with 74.66. In fact, Duffy is the only Scottish Premiership player to have a success rate over 80 since Wyscout started tracking the statistic in 2015/16.”
That’s historic. So why hasn’t it worked out for the likeable Irishman?
Mystery over Shane Duffy spell at Celtic will confuse us for a long time
Stats are interesting. They aren’t the be-all-and-end-all, but they do give us a pretty clear indication of how things can go right or wrong for a player.
It’s especially strange that for all the duels Shane Duffy won in the air, we still leaked goals in that department. There are several examples, but the 1-1 draw with Hibs comes to mind, as does the early season loss to Rangers. Duffy was involved, and perhaps culpable for both.
And what emerges when you dig further into his stats, is that he just wasn’t making many tackles. It’s that simple. Too often, he was beaten by the player in possession. He’s averaged less than 1 tackle per 90 in the Premiership, but conceded 1.3 fouls per match [WhoScored?].
That’s not great. But it’s not like he’s permanently struggled with the ball on the deck. You don’t get to that level of football as a defender without being able to win the ball.
Another area where he lacks is interceptions. For whatever reason, his reading of the game has got worse over his career. Looking at his recent seasons on WhoScored?, he’s gone from 3.2 per 90 with Blackburn, then 1.4 with Brighton, to 1.2 with Celtic.
There are mitigating factors here; he’ll have seen more possession with Brighton and Celtic. Yet, Kristoffer Ajer makes 1.4 interceptions, Jonjoe Kenny boasts 1.5, and Stephen Welsh garners 1.6.
So clearly, then, there’s a massive discrepancy between Shane Duffy’s abilities in the air, and on the ground. Why that is, is anyone’s guess. But for a player to have been so wildly variant in different areas of the game, specifically a centre-back, is mysterious in the extreme.
Whether that’s through inefficient training, lack of confidence or diminished ability is anyone’s guess. Still, though, it’s another odd factor in a bizarre season for Celtic overall.
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