While results under the new leadership of Ange Postecoglou were somewhat mixed in the early stages of the season – with Celtic being dumped out of Champions League qualifying in the second round, as well as losing three of their opening seven Scottish Premiership fixtures and both of their opening two Europa League group stage games – things are finally starting to look on the up for the 56-year-old at Parkhead.
Indeed, the Bhoys are now on a run of three straight victories in all competitions, a series of games that has seen the club secure their first and second domestic away wins of the season, as well as a crucial 2-0 victory over Ferencvarosi TC in the Europa League – a result which keeps Postecoglou’s hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages of the competition alive.
However, while results are ultimately the most important metric a manager is judged on, it is not only Celtic’s accumulation of points that has improved for Postecoglou in recent weeks, but also the implementation of the Greek-Australian’s much-fabled brand of football.
Upon his arrival at Celtic this summer, Postecoglou’s appointment promised Celtic fans a style of play that was possession-based, relentlessly high intensity and extremely attacking – and, while there was some evidence of this during the early stages of the season, with the Bhoys typically dominating possession of the ball, the results did not always follow.
Indeed, in the 2-1 defeat to Heart of Midlothian back in July, Celtic enjoyed a whopping 73% of the ball and completed 429 more passes than their opposition, however, despite this domination, Postecoglou’s side created just one big chance over the course of the 90 minutes – the same number Hearts managed.
It was a similar story in the 1-0 loss to Livingston, with the Bhoys having 79% possession and completing 497 more passes than the Lions, although this time the Hoops failed to create even one big chance in the match.
However, the tide has certainly turned during the last three fixtures, with Celtic enjoying 61% possession, creating four big chances and completing 217 more passes than Aberdeen in the 2-1 win. They then boasted 73% of the ball, created one big chance and completed 443 more passes against Motherwell in the 2-0 victory, and had 67% possession, created seven big chances and succeeded with 371 more passes than Ferencvarosi in the 2-0 win.
And, while FBref does not track data for Scottish Premiership fixtures, there is a clue in the Bhoys’ Europa League win as to how Postecoglou has managed to improve his side’s creativity.
Indeed, when looking at Celtic’s pressing in the early stages of the season, the Hoops often applied pressure to opposition players in their defensive and middle thirds a greater number of times than in their attacking third – something that is not surprising, as Postecoglou likes his side to apply pressure extremely high up the pitch.
However, against Ferencvarosi, it would appear as if the 56-year-old instructed his side to change tact somewhat, with Celtic registering the most pressing in their own defensive third – 23 pressures were made in the defensive third while 46 in the middle third and then 61 in attacking third. That’s something that would suggest the manager wanted to draw the Hungarian side out of shape by allowing them to have more of the ball, before springing a counter-attack to catch them on the break.
And, considering both the result and display on Tuesday afternoon was arguably Celtic’s most impressive of the season, perhaps this is something we will more of from the Hoops in the coming weeks – as, with the Bhoys creating seven big chances against Ferencvarosi, it is certainly a tactic that appeared to work.