This weekend broached the five game mark in this season’s Scottish Premiership. While it’s too early to make any real judgements, it is worthwhile examining some of the trends taking place across the league.
Celtic on red alert
While the champions are often criticised for having such great financial power at their disposal, there are some intangible qualities that money can’t buy. Hunger, focus and commitment are not bought on the transfer market; they’re honed over time by a good coach. Celtic are lucky in that Brendan Rodgers has done exactly that.
Indeed, five of their twelve goals this season have come from taking advantage of a loose ball in and around the penalty area. Are Celtic reacting quicker than everyone else? Or is it a case of having players in a better position?
Take this example from Friday’s game against Hamilton:
Scott Sinclair follows up on his initial shot to fire home. However, compare the actions of the Hamilton players to that of the three Celtic players at the moment Sinclair takes the first shot.
The Hamilton players all switch off; the Celtic ones keep going. This results in Celtic scoring a goal.
This focus is not something money can buy, and Celtic will continue to profit from it as the season unfolds.
Assists from deep
Take a look at where the assists are coming from:
Breaking down the areas of the pitch like this shows that the most popular place for a final pass to come from is deep and central.
Interestingly, of the 18 goals to come from here, 13 have been scored with the goalscorer dribbling the ball themselves.
St Johnstone have been the main beneficiaries of this, scoring four goals from deep build up so far this season. In particular, Michael O’Halloran has done outstanding work in picking the ball up in a nowhere area before scoring.
On the other hand, Kilmarnock fans should be pretty worried. They’re team is conceding a goal a game from someone dribbling through their defence from deep. This screams of an unorganised system when not in possession. Is the midfield getting back quickly enough? Do they know what to do if someone loses their man further up the field? These are the sort of questions needing asked at Rugby Park.
Roughly one goal in three comes from a set piece situation, so they’re certainly worth paying attention to. Unfortunately for Dundee and Ross County fans, it doesn’t look like their teams are preparing particularly well for these situations: both have already conceded five goals from set pieces this term.
Ross County and Rangers have both conceded following a throw in, which is always indicative of a side not paying much attention. In both situations, the teams gave away far too much space in and around the box. There’s an old saying that says that how you do anything indicates how you do everything. If you switch off in certain situations, there’s a good chance you’ll switch off in others.
So where does this leave us?
Five games do not give us anywhere near the final picture as to where a team’s at. We can start drawing conclusions after everyone has played everyone else. However, five games are more than enough to start establishing patterns of vulnerability. It’s up to the teams in question to recognise them before anyone else does.