Liel Abada has just turned 20, the same age Kenny Dalglish broke into the Celtic first team. I mention that as it was through Dalglish I found the club. Therefore Celtic By Numbers would not exists without him. He is used as the icon on my site.

All that preamble may serve to put pressure on young Abada but actually the purpose of it is to emphasise how well the young fellow has done, coming to a new country and culture at such a tender age. With 1199 minutes he’s fifth in the squad for time on the pitch.

18 matches into an already exhausting season, Abada sits on top of Celtic’s Scoring Contribution chart with six goals and six assists. His 12 Scoring Contributions is a whopping four more than second placed Kyogo Furuhashi and David Turnbull.

On pure attacking output then, the Israeli has made quite the first impression.

But what sort of player have Celtic recruited?


Abada ranks first in the current squad on one major metric – Expected Assists (xA). This is a measure of the quality of the chances a player creates for teammates. His average is 0.58 xA per 90m, which is a likely unsustainable number. For context, Messi would be one of the few in Europe to average more than 0.4 xA per 90 over a season.

When considering Abada’s other data, it appears he is very adept at the “final pass”. What I mean is that he is often the final provider. He ranks second for complete crosses (0.84 per 90m – did I ever tell you crossing is a bit inefficient?) and for failed crosses (3.83 per 90m). He is also third for passes into the Danger Zone (the area central to the goal within the penalty area) with 1.2 such complete passes per 90m.

READ MORE: Should Celtic buy Hibs' Josh Doig to finally properly replace Kieran Tierney?

What we don’t get from Abada is much in the way of build-up actions. He is eleventh in the squad on Secondary Assists (0.98 per 90m) – this is the pass before the assisting one.

He is fifteenth in the squad on providing line-breaking passes (Packing) with 3.3 per 90m.

He doesn’t attempt many dribble / take ons (1.73 per 90m) and is 5th for Progressive Runs (carrying the ball at least 10m in the opposition half) with 2.55 per 90m.

His pass completion of 22.67 - the lowest of all the non-strikers.

But, his overall Packing score (forward passes received and provided) is almost the same as James Forrest’s!

So, here we have a player with relatively low involvement in any build-up actions who nevertheless has the highest xA and attempts many crosses, many of them into good areas.

Goal Threat

Abada’s scoring rate of 0.45 goals per 90m is just over his xG rate of 0.4 which is 5th in the squad but very high for a winger.

Overwhelmingly his shots are from inside the box (83%) although only 37% are on target. His average xG per shot of 0.15 is okay – 7th best in the squad.

In general, he gets touches in the box (5.25) more commensurate with a striker illustrating his excellent movement and ability to arrive at the right moment as against Jablonec and Midtjylland.

His Scoring Contribution (SC) overall (Goals + Assists) of 0.9 is second best and his xSC of 0.98 3rd highest. But these numbers profile him more as a striker. Edouard tended to average just over one 1 per 90m – that is – you could expect at least one goal or assist every match.


A winger’s work is not limited to attacking contribution alone.

He wins as many challenges as Forrest who is quite strong defensively (comparatively) with 2.1 per 90m. Whilst his overall Defensive Action Success Rate is 28% which is lower than Forrest, it is higher than other attacking midfielders like Turnbull and Tom Rogic.

Similarly, possessions won from defensive actions at 36% is higher than his midfield peers.

What Abada’s defensive numbers show is that he is potentially as capable defensively as Forrest and more so than Rogic and Turnbull with whom he is currently sharing a midfield spot. This highlights the weakness of Celtic central midfield in terms of ability to affect a high press and win the ball back in transition. That is for another story.

Any Concerns?

A leading question, obviously!

The equally obvious concern from a young winger is consistency. His Expected Scoring Contribution (xSC = xA + xG) varies widely from nearly 3 against Dundee and St Mirren to 0 against Midtjylland and at Ibrox.

As a player who is not involved in the game to a high degree, the pressure is on to produce moments in that limited possession phase. That happens less against better opposition.

READ MORE: The 3 reasons Celtic are leaking goals and why it's not the fault of Ange Postecoglou's system

Indeed, if we split Abada’s minutes between 'big games' (Europe and Derby) and 'other' (SPFL and League Cup) then his xSC is as follows:

Abada’s xSC in Big Games: 0.67

Abada’s xSC in Other Games: 1.34

In other words, his expected assists and goals double against the weaker opposition. Whilst you would expect some deviation based on opponent quality, this is quite a contrast.

It was noticeable against AZ Alkmaar and Steven Gerrard's team in particular, that the opponent forced him inside into traffic and limited his involvements in those key moments.

Abada is not a renowned dribbler like Jota and struggled to produce 'in traffic'.


For such a young player, Abada has adapted well and leads Celtic overall scoring charts in terms of goals and assists.

The underlying data shows he profiles more as a natural striker than a winger. He is involved little in build-up play, has relatively few touches, and tends to produce moments of danger from relatively little possession. On the other hand, his movement off the ball is excellent and his overall productivity data profiles like a striker's.

He has thus far struggled to impose himself against better quality opposition whilst posting very high productivity against more average Scottish opposition.

He is a hard-working player defensively and looks a good fit to Postecoglou’s overall approach.

Clearly, there is significant room for improvement but he is having to battle in the right-wing spot on his own.

Competition and rotation with Forrest will likely benefit the team hugely and allow space for him to grow.