Time for the good, the bad, and the ugly from yesterday’s Celtic vs St. Johnstone game. Non-penalty xG was 1.48 vs 0.56, which compared to the 5 season avg of 2.50-0.81 at McDiarmid Park. Well below on chance creation and also below on conceding chances. Despite the continued issue with creating quality chances, one of the big structural issues I have been documenting for months did improve- defensive transitions.
In the preceding 8 league games, opponents’ attacks averaged 20.8% going through the middle of the pitch. All but the Killie game, with it obviously being on that terrible pitch, were between 19%-25% (14.5% vs Killie). Yesterday’s game was just 13.1%, with the major threats coming from wide areas and crosses. St. Johnstone were limited to a single quality chance, which came off a long kick from their keeper followed by Frimpong and Elhamed both going for and losing a header, and Taylor being beaten in recovery for the cross. Four other shots were taken in poor circumstances and easily blocked, and another from about 40 yards trying to catch Barkas off his line.
Good goes to the two late striker substitutes, Klimala and Griffiths. We can see from their heat maps, that both occupied areas in their limited minutes typical of strikers.
I have no particular bias for or against 1 or 2 striker systems. I do prefer that when a 2 striker system is used it be played with at least 1 traditional striker. Compare those 2 heat maps with Edouard’s and Moi’s from the game.
In a supposed 3-5-2 system we functionally had 7 midfielders and no “strikers.” Kudos to Klimala and Griffiths for excellent finishes-particularly Klimala.
Bad goes to what I see as a continued lack of a coherent plan, which fails to put players in positions to succeed. I really like the long-term potential for Turnbull, but Sunday he looked like a guy who did not know what he was supposed to be doing. Add in a 3-5-2 system with only 1 wing back and no natural box strikers, and a Conga Line average pass map was the result.
Compare yesterday’s average pass map with the one from the 2-0 win over Hibs on Dec 15th last season, the first where the team played 3-5-2 domestically. Looks like a bunch of players who have never played together in a system ill-suited for many of them, or something like that.
I have no idea if Edouard has not been as driven or focused. What I can do is assess how playing he and Moi together in 3-5-2 has worked, and the evidence suggests- not well. Moi has been played at CF a total of about 500 minutes while at Celtic. Celtic’s xG per 90 minutes has been just 1.14 in those 500+ minutes. Moi’s individual output has been 0.13 xG and 0.12 xA at CF vs 0.38 xG and 0.18 xA when he has played as a winger. Over the time Moi has played at CF, he has been partnered with Edouard for about 88% of those minutes, with the team xG was 1.21 per 90 over that time. Edouard’s individual output when paired with Moi has been 0.31 xG and 0.15 xA, or less than half in both vs what he produced when paired with Griffiths last season.
So how much of yesterday’s poor performance was due to a large number of players “not turning up” vs tactical incoherence? How much of the 2 goals were due to mystical ESP abilities of Brown vs actually having 2 strikers playing a 2-striker system and taking off the obvious issue at LWB? A continued fear of mine, as we now hopefully head into the 1st derby on the 17th, is the seeming focus on faith over reason.
Ugly goes to yesterday’s officiating performance. One of the risks I mentioned just before the season began was the risk of officiating which effectively levels the playing field to a degree via lack of protecting players. Duffy earned a penalty (no call) and several assaults went unpunished. Klimala was fortunate to escape injury and Frimpong continues to be roughed up. Unless performance levels improve to expand xG differentials, normal variance combined with things like officiating issues are likely to lead to more dropped points over time.