Ange has played deal for Celtic youngster Liam Shaw perfectly; history backs it up

By Euan Davidson

January 8, 2022

It seems obvious that Ange Postecoglou is driving both arrivals and departures at Celtic, and in dealing Liam Shaw to Motherwell, he’s made another fantastic decision.

Shaw, who was agreed before Postecoglou came to the club, was impressive if a little temperamental at Sheffield Wednesday. Versatile, but sometimes reckless in the tackle, Shaw looked to be a key building block for the Owls. But contract confusion allowed Celtic to get a deal done.

In fairness, it’s a move a lot of Celtic fans would relive again if given a chance. In very brief showings, Shaw has looked a real prospect. Caught in limbo between the first-team and the B Team, the 20-year-old hasn’t had much of an opportunity to impress.

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But when he’s been on the pitch, he’s looked good. Against Real Betis, he put in a confident showing. In just over an hour, he played plenty of progressive passes into the opposition half, won a fantastic 8 duels, and made 3 ball recoveries [Fotmob]. As a midfield battler who can win the ball well and move it on, he looks a good coup for the future.

For the current day, though, Motherwell is an excellent place for Shaw to develop. The Steelmen sit fourth in the Scottish Premiership [SPFL], under solid coach Graham Alexander. Shaw can progress his game and nail down his best position, while battling for European competition at a very good level indeed.

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Celtic boss has played Liam Shaw situation perfectly, Motherwell are an ideal destination

Motherwell have shown plenty of encouraging signs this season. Their defence has been, largely, more than proficient, with Lamie and Mugabi having very decent campaigns. Up front, Kevin van Veen and Tony Watt are entertaining, and in Watt’s case, prolific goalscorers.

But what makes Shaw so interesting, is that their central midfield hasn’t been particularly outstanding. They haven’t been particularly good at winning the ball back in central areas. Through balls through the middle have been an achilles heel, and there’s not enough protection for the defence in the 4-3-3 Alexander likes to play.

In the Premiership, they average just 39% of possession [WhoScored?]. That’s pretty poor, and in Liam Shaw they can have a player who’s confident on the ball, as well as adept at winning it back. They’re also the worst passing team in the league in terms of success percentage.

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Who’s first, you ask? Well, the Bhoys of course. And having Shaw, who’s been training with Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou, and who’s good at controlling the ball under pressure, is a huge boost.

He’s not guaranteed starts, of course. But Motherwell are an interesting team. They do some particular things very well, but despite being 4th, have very obvious deficiencies. A physically imposing ball-winning midfielder with technique and vision is a fantastic loan signing, from their perspective.

History, though, proves that this kind of move works. Kristoffer Ajer is the obvious one; he went to Kilmarnock, retrained as a centre-back, performed well and put himself in first-team contention at Celtic. But Ryan Christie might be the better example here; he showed what he could do, productively, for a side who didn’t keep the ball as well as Celtic, or created as many opportunities. He thrived.

Then he came to Celtic and really blossomed.

Hopefully, that’s the trajectory for Liam Shaw. It’s very, very early days. But a lot about this move just feels absolutely right for Celtic, Motherwell and Shaw himself.

Read more: Celtic favourite Chris Sutton implores club to get £6m deal done; makes Souttar comparison