Time for the good, the bad, & and the ugly from yesterday’s Celtic vs Sarajevo game. Non-penalty xG was 2.14 vs 0.39 on 14 vs 5 shots. 0.75 of Celtic’s xG came from Edouard’s tap in goal, which was his only shot of the game. A simple statistical comparison would suggest that Celtic performed “better” than vs Riga. This is where the common criticisms by those who want to discredit data analytics get some ammunition- the analysis part invariably includes some subjectivity.
I worked with and was mentored for several years by one of the world’s leading performance benchmarking experts, and he taught me to always think about what question is being asked, and whether the data and/or model being used is sufficient to answer that question.
If the question is simply: Was Celtic’s net attacking and defensive output better vs Sarajevo? Then my answer is yes. Like the Hibs game, if the question is: Did the performance indicate that the drivers of recent disappointing performance levels improve? Then the answer is no.
Of the 2.14 in xG, 0.78 came from CB’s off set pieces/corners. This is a good thing in isolation, IMO, as being better on set pieces and corners varies our attack. However, it is not the same as creating goal scoring chances from open play. Even though Edouard’s chance was due to poor keeper play, it was the result of a sequence of good central build up between he, Moi, & Christie. It is the sort of build up play which has been relatively sparse so far this season.
Including the Edouard goal there was 1.36 xG created from open play. Of that, 0.36 came from 1 shot each from Taylor and Frimpong. That output compares to the 0.39 in xG conceded from open play, which was higher than the 0.17 xG conceded from open play vs Riga. So overall, I would characterize the performance as marginally better overall compared with Riga, but pretty similar from open play.
First good goes to the time-honored mantra of “just get through.” A loss last night could have been catastrophic and further amplify risks ignited by the CL exit to Ferencvaros.
Second good and my MOTM goes to Scott Brown- yesterday’s performance is likely near the top end of his performance range at this stage of his career. He won 15 of 27 duels overall, 6 of 9 defensive duels, 11 interceptions, 12 recoveries, was successful in all 4 of his dribbles, and only turned the ball over just 4 times.
In comparison, McGregor won 14 of 24 duels, 10 of 12 defensive, 7 interceptions, 5 recoveries, but he was 0 for 3 on dribbles and turned the ball over 12 times. Neither did much creatively, with McGregor having just a single Key Pass and 0.03 xA vs zeros for Brown. Ball progressions from both were also not at a good level, with Brown having just 7 progressive passes and 1 progressive run, with McGregor having 6 and 1, respectively. Their combined performances kept the midfield under decent control but with little attacking or creative output from open play. The relative isolation of Edouard and Elyounoussi continued the recent trend of low output from the most central and forward attackers.
Bad goes to the combination of Sarajevo and the pitch. In general, I found them to be a rather grim side, and the pitch was in pathetic condition for a European game. The theatrics and flopping were over the top, and the pitch had more bumps than my cellulose ridden arse.
Ugly goes to the growing list of Celtic injuries. Bitton has unfortunately now joined the ranks and it appears will be out for a longer stretch. With the 1st derby now just a couple of weeks away, even if reinforcements are theoretically brought in by Monday’s close of the transfer window, that does not leave any competitive matches to bed in additions. While Ajeti may be available, it will be a big question as to whether he will be fit enough to start and/or play a big role.