Time for the good, the bad, & the ugly from Wednesday’s Celtic vs Riga game. Non-penalty xG was 1.13 vs 0.18 on 15 vs 4 shots, with possession 71%-29%. An important reminder regarding analytical models: they are designed to offer information which can enhance insight, but understanding framework and limitations is important. For example, the scramble by Ajeti at the goal mouth did not register a shot or any xG in Wyscout’s model, so this specific event-based xG did not assign “value” to it. Even if I add some value for a couple of scoring chances that did not result in actual shots, the creative output and scoring chances were well below what I would characterize as good.
The good and my MOTM goes to Nir Bitton, which is not a great indicator of team performance level when a RCB gets MOTM in a game with 71% possession. He won 14 of 20 duels overall and 4 of 5 defensive duels, completed 91 of 92 passes and 12 progressive passes. He remains my preferred 1st pick at RCB.
The other goods go to 2 obvious, and 1 that may be a bit controversial. I will come back to Frimpong in a little while, but he had 9 of 15 successful dribbles, 4 progressive runs, and 4 of 7 accurate crosses, including the huge Moi goal.
Christie produced a prototypical performance, where he was a mixed bag but good significantly outweighs the bad. Won 15 of 27 duels, successful on 7 of 11 dribbles, 7 progressive runs, and 8 progressive passes. His decision making remains the area where he could really advance to an elite level, IMO. He took 7 of teams 15 shots, and only 1 was a good shot.
The last good goes to Taylor, which I think is a good example of how our eyes can lie. A significant portion of our support seem anchored on Taylor with confirmation bias a huge issue, and I include myself. I felt he had a terrible game watching. However, he had 0.12 xG and lead the team by a distance with 0.35 xA and 5 key passes. He won 9 of14 duels and was accurate on 3 of 7 crosses. He had a combined 12 interceptions plus recoveries vs 9 turnovers. For reference, Taylor has had 15-20 turnovers in bad games. I think he played well for what he is able to offer.
Now for the bad, as nearly every single structural issue I have been chronicling for months appeared once again. Many in our support appear to be devolving into slaughtering players about effort etc, when I believe the majority are trying to make the best of poor managing. It once again appeared obvious that a well-organized opponent game planned vs Celtic’s obvious structural issues. Taylor’s output was a result of Riga seemingly letting him have the ball with little pressure, almost daring him to do something. McGregor’s heatmap was that of a LWB rather than a midfielder. Check my Twitter timeline @jucojames from September 24th on Celtic player heatmaps from the Livingston game. Yesterday was largely a rerun, with no one in the center of the pitch for most of the game.
The team average pass map showed Duffy and Brown at the center line like Kip & Henry from Bosom Buddies. The back 3 played 334 of teams 716 passes. Duffy played 106 passes vs 60 for Brown, so I guess that makes him Kip. Ntcham had just 39 and McGregor 83. Brown passed the ball just 6 times to McGregor and 4 to Ntcham, with 14 to Taylor. How many to Frimpong? Zero. As has become typical, total collapse left.
Players like Edouard, Ntcham, and McGregor all produced close to normal volume stats with poor end-product. Edouard’s stats were comparable with the Dec 29th derby, where he was also surrounded by defenders in a game where the manager was outmatched tactically. They were also comparable to various games in Europe last season, including AIK and the Cluj, Rennes, and Lazio group stage games.
The ugly goes to what appears to be a continuing slow-motion car crash, in my opinion. Perhaps I am like Edouard before the Livingston game and tired, so I will simply reference the last 2 months of my analysis. I was critical of Lennon last season for not optimizing an incredibly talented team. Unfortunately, I believe he is now doing damage. Following the Champions League exit, I called for one of the “adults” at the club to make the difficult, but what I believed was the necessary, decision. After the recent Desmond interview, I fear there may not be any in a position of power.
Like with Brown’s decline, good analysis can help planning for the future. I fear the club may be hell bent on responding to a mess in crisis mode rather than preventing one. Forethought could have prevented what are now as series of embarrassing performances by Brown, and a manager seemingly in self-destruct mode. I have empathy for both as people, but I believe a major course correction is required.