The stat that shows both the good and bad of Celtic under Postecoglou

By Euan Davidson

October 12, 2021

Celtic are a very well-behaved team under Ange Postecoglou. Thus far, anyway.

At the mid-October mark, the Bhoys have been extremely well-disciplined. Perhaps not necessarily in a defensive sense, but the Hoops rank first in the Scottish Premiership for cards accrued, with just 8 yellows and no reds [WhoScored?].

Compare that to the teams around us. The next best is St Mirren, who have had three players sent off. Motherwell have had an extravagant 24 bookings and one dismissal. Even Rangers have had 5 more cautious than the Bhoys.

What does this matter, I hear you ask? Well, it’s a function of a few things. You could argue that Celtic don’t have to make nearly as many tackles, what with all of the possession we have. Fair point, but we actually make nearly as many tackles as card-happy Motherwell [WhoScored?].

Meanwhile, Hoops defenders get dribbled past over 5 times a game. So, the question here is; do Celtic need to have a bit more of an edge?

We’re not calling to bring Vinnie Jones out of retirement, here. Nor are we suggesting that Celtic become an overly aggressive team, adding suspensions to the ever-concerning injury list.

Three class players are about to make their return for Celtic

Three class players are about to make their return for Celtic
67 Hail Hail (Youtube)

But, there is an argument to be made about being too passive off the ball. Let’s explore that.

Celtic under Postecoglou are undeniably good to watch, but concerns remain off the ball

This isn’t to criticise Ange Postecoglou, nor to question what he’s trying to do at Celtic.

If it was up to him, A: we’d never lose the all and B: if we did, Celtic would have players pressing constantly. Eventually, that’s what we’ll hopefully see. That demands a lot of energy, though, and so far that’s been lacking when we’re out of possession.

There is good to be said about all this, in fairness. Celtic are still up there in terms of how many tackles the team commit to [WhoScored?], but they aren’t getting booked with frequency. Undoubtedly, that’s no bad thing.

But still, it’s concerning how easily opposition players tend to get past us. For example, see any of the Bayer Leverkusen goals. Or, perhaps more pertinently, in the league, when Ian Harkes rose virtually unopposed to level the score at Parkhead.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

The problem seems to stem from the middle of the park. Looking at this data from the Aberdeen game, Celtic didn’t attempt a single tackle in or around the centre-circle [WhoScored?]. Central to Postecoglou’s philosophy is surely winning the ball back quickly in the middle of the park, to immediately spark a counter-attack.

We’ll take a few more bookings for a more aggressive Celtic

That just isn’t happening at the moment. Even with the likes of Callum McGregor, James McCarthy or Nir Bitton in midfield, the ball isn’t being won there.

What does this have do with yellow and red cards, then? Well, the more tackles a team makes, the more likely it is that bookings will accrue. And for all it’s commendable how well-behaved Celtic are, it’s just a bit nice, especially without Scott Brown at the club.

Previous successes have been built on a midfield that win the ball back repeatedly and make things happen. For the Postecoglou tactical revolution to hold, it’ll need to be the same.

And we won’t mind if there are a few more bookings involved because of it.

Read more: Rumoured Celtic summer target Patrick Berg is assessing his options ahead of January