The promising Celtic duo that went under-the-radar in Monday thrashing

By Euan Davidson

March 16, 2022

Against Bodo/Glimt, the duo of Matt O’Riley and Tom Rogic couldn’t really get it going for Celtic.

The two are undoubtedly talented players. Both have excellent technique that sets them apart from much of the Hoops squad, and that’s not a slight on anyone else. Perhaps, though, their similarities were the problem – both tend to occupy the right of the midfield. They both look to deliver killer balls, or take a run and go at goal themselves.

So there was understandable anxiety when Rogic replaced Hatate at half-time against Dundee United. Not because we don’t love Tom Rogic – we do – and not because O’Riley wasn’t having a good game either. It’s just that we hadn’t really seen the duo gel on the pitch to great effect.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

Against the Terriers though, it did click. Though both could be described as slower players, in comparison to Reo Hatate or Callum McGregor for example, the tempo seemed to quicken. There was no let-up in the amount of chances created [BBC], and Giakoumakis thrived playing just ahead of them.

After the Bodo/Glimt defeats, when the duo played together, O’Riley said [Herald]: “Good players can play with good players and the defensive side of things comes down to more than just two players. We’ve only started two games together and it’s been against, arguably, the best team we’ve faced this season. So it’s never going to be easy.”

The improvement since then is surely inarguable.

Starfelt makes a mockery of the media’s narrative as the supercomputer forecasts glory for Celtic

Starfelt makes a mockery of the media’s narrative as the supercomputer forecasts glory for Celtic
67 Hail Hail (Youtube)

Celtic duo O’Riley and Rogic just need more time, not unlike another midfield duo

Remember when it looked like Rogic and Turnbull wouldn’t click? Eventually, they did. The duo had a fantastic half-season of football together, with the duo regularly finding each other on 1-2s, or in space to either shoot or deliver a final, killer pass.

Stylistically, though, it was easy to see where the doubt came from. It’s similar when Celtic manager Postecoglou picks O’Riley and Rogic together. The sample size was small, but not promising. Physically, technically, and based on how they play, it just seemed awkward.

Like everything else, though, especially this season, it’s a waiting game. On Monday, a real thrashing of Dundee United, Rogic and O’Riley suddenly looked like an unorthodox, but promising fit together.

Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images

On paper, the thought of them really clicking for Celtic is tantalising. It also goes back to another argument to be made about Ange Postecoglou; he’s built a formidable squad, with excellent combinations and competition in just about every position.

The season has punctuated by excellent combinations. Carter-Vickers and Starfelt. The aforementioned Rogic and Turnbull. Jota and Kyogo. Jota and Abada. Maeda and Giakoumakis is another new, exciting one.

Against logic and orthodoxy, a Celtic midfield pair of Rogic and O’Riley might just be crazy enough to work. The evidence, against Dundee United on Monday, was very encouraging.

Read more: The narrative about Celtic internationals and their travels that’s getting out of hand