TCW's data and analysis writer Alan Morrison explains where the league was won and lost as well as the comparisons which show the Hoops' ultimate domination in the Scottish Premiership.

The league was won some time ago and as I wrote last week, Celtic have had a habit of taking the foot off the ol’ gas this century in these circumstances. 

Despite this, and nine goals conceded in three poor performances, they are champions.

With a gulf to the pack in the SPFL (second-place Rangers finished 35 points ahead of third-placed Aberdeen), the match ups between the top two provide insight into how the league was won.

A 24-better goal difference indicates it is perhaps in the final third Celtic has been the more effective side.

Let’s compare the key protagonists to see what we can learn.

The Fulcrum #1 – Attacking Midfield

Although both sides set up differently, they usually deploy attacking eights and/or a number ten with two wide attackers.

Firstly, the ever-present Matt O’Riley (22) is compared to Malik Tillman (21).

Celtic Way:

The American has the edge in both expected assists and goals, perhaps playing more forward on average than his Danish counterpart.

Tillman is very strong with the ball at feet and his dribbling stats reflect this, as does his ability to draw fouls. The downside to this is more turnovers are conceded. 

READ MORE: Spurs masquerade as a big club, Celtic are the real deal - Haggerty

O’Riley gets in the box more and has more shots, as well as being the more accurate passer. 

But the American has the slight edge in overall attacking productivity.

The Fulcrum #2 – Attacking Midfield

Celtic’s second number eight is usually Reo Hatate (25) and he is compared here to Todd Cantwell (25), who is more of a hybrid forward than out and out midfielder.

Celtic Way:

Like above, Hatate manages a greater volume of shots, but Cantwell has the more productive expected goals. 

Surprisingly the slightly deeper Japanese player gets into the box more often.

Cantwell turns over the ball less and while their dribble success is very similar, off the ball, it is the former Norwich man who is more effective in forcing opposition turnovers.

A developing trend is the significantly more fouls the Rangers players seem to extract. 

With a slightly more accurate passing game and higher xG per shot, Cantwell probably has edged Hatate although the context of the meaningfulness of their respective fixtures must be a consideration.

The Back-Up Creator

For Celtic, Aaron Mooy (32) has been one of the surprises of the season since joining as a free agent. Rangers continue to rely on 34-year-old Scott Arfield, who is set to leave the club, off the bench to shore up midfield creativity – he has 30 appearances but only around 1000 minutes. 

Two veterans, then, who have supplemented their teams during the season.

Celtic Way:

Mooy made a significant impact on Celtic, especially after the World Cup.

He betters his Rangers counterpart in virtually all metrics apart from fouls won.

Mooy has been a stabilising force on this Celtic team and allowed the pressure to be taken off the younger O’Riley and Hatate on occasions. 

Arfield may be a declining force, as his release from the club illustrates, and this match up shows a key area Celtic had greater strength in depth.

Number One Winger

Both sides have a standout forward, with Jota (24) competing against Ryan Kent (25).

Celtic Way:

This season has been very disappointing for the English ball carrier.

Jota, who has significantly more goals and chance creation threats, gets into the box more often and has more shots. He also turns the ball over less often.

Kent is stronger in the dribble and wins the ball back more often. His crossing and passing are more accurate, and he again draws more fouls.

But overall, Jota has provided a far greater threat.

The Speed Machine

Both sides have a speedy alternative on the wings that can double up as an alternative striker.

Daizen Maeda (25) has appeared in 22.5 league games and Fashion Sakala (26) in 21.3.

Celtic Way:

Sakala looks like the overall great goal threat and has the higher xG and significantly more shots, although Maeda has a better shot selection with a higher xG per shot.

The Zambian gets into the box far more often, has more successful dribbles and a better chance creation rate. 

Maeda draws more fouls and is less likely to turn the ball over.

READ MORE: Celtic's Hyeon-gyu Oh is the perfect replacement for Kyogo

Of course, his opposition pressing and ability to force turnovers from the opposition is league-leading. 

Two quite different players with different strengths. Sakala is clearly the great goal threat, but Maeda gives you something different off the ball.

The Impact Forward

Both clubs have spent similar amounts on young attackers who have mostly been used as impact substitutes during the season.

Liel Abada (21) is into his second Celtic season, while Rabbi Matondo (22) was a signature capture this season from German football.

Celtic Way:

The Welshman has outstanding speed and clearly has the edge with the ball at feet, drawing fouls and in regaining the ball from the opposition.

However, the Israeli is a significantly more effective goal threat and chance provider. Shots, xG and touches in the box are more akin to a striker, all while giving the ball away less often than his opposition counterpart.

His xA of 0.33 is exceptional for a wide player and overall, Abada’s numbers mark him out as one of the most productive young forwards in Europe.

The Main Man

A cliché among hardened football watchers is that you need to have a reliable goal scorer to flourish in this league. Well, who doesn’t?

Possession-dominant sides need someone at the sharp end that is reliable, given the volume of chances that will come along.

Rangers have continued to rely on Alfredo Morelos (25), while Kyogo Furuhashi (28), refreshed from an extended injury last season, was very much the main man for Celtic.

Celtic Way:

Despite appearing out of shape and disinterested at times, the Colombian continued to be Rangers' most effective forward by far.

He is very much a volume player relying on a high number of chances and shots.

As a counterpoint, the Japanese striker's game is one of sheer efficiency. An incredible 0.2 xG per shot and overall xG of 0.65 per 90 minutes marks Kyogo out as a rapier to the more bludgeoning Morelos.

He won’t contribute to bringing others into the game as much as the Colombian but will hunt the ball down mercilessly out of possession.

Morelos has a clear advantage in aerial duels as well.

But Kyogo is efficiency personified. He is there to score goals and then chase the ball when not in possession and he does both expertly.

The league’s top scorer with 27 goals bettered his Glasgow rival by 16. An unanswerable advantage.

The Support Striker

The main man is not always going to score or be available.

You need back up and for Rangers it was new signing Antonio Colak (29). For Celtic, in the first part of the season, it was Giorgos Giakoumakis (28). Oh Hyeon-gyu played for the second part of the season but it was the Greek who managed more minutes.

Celtic Way:

There is remarkable symmetry in the performances of the two back-up strikers.

Neither was involved in bringing others into play and both came alive in the penalty box. The Greek was more effective without the ball, pressuring the opponents.

Overall, Giakoumakis has the stronger xG and better shot quality on average. However, Colak, with 14 goals, significantly over-performed his xG and provided the stronger on-field output, the Greek ended up with slightly better performance stats.

An honourable draw, perhaps.

Number One goalkeeper

It was worth focusing on the attacking strengths of the respective sides as, with two dominant teams, this is where the bulk of the action is.

But I do want to end back at the beginning, in goal. 

There has been pleasing age-related symmetry between the two sides in terms of the profile of the players they rely on in each position.

This extends to the primary custodians, and their respective performances are instructive.

Celtic Way:

Both are at the veteran stage, although Hart has five years of catching up to do

For Rangers, there are echos of 2020-21 with an over-reliance on an ageing stalwart in the case of Celtic and Scott Brown. In short, this seems a season too far for Allan McGregor (41).

His data is truly awful, with negative On Ball Value and near-worst saves above average in the league.

He also had the lowest shot-stopping percentage value amongst the SPFL goalkeepers.

If Celtic fans think Joe Hart (36) has been magnificent in comparison, then we need to think again

Hart has been competent without significantly saving anything more than what is expected.

He has been a long way short of the liability McGregor became, but the warning signs are there that over-reliance on an ageing talent in a key position can spell danger.

While Celtic fans can be satisfied with the Englishman’s overall contribution, a succession plan is needed.


Football is a lot more complex than simple one on one comparisons, especially where teams play different systems.

However, some trends have emerged. 

Hope for Rangers can be found in midfield, an area Celtic desperately need to improve. All their underperforming stars compared above (Arfield, Kent, Morelos, McGregor) have now left, so they may be replaced with more productive players.

Celtic were significantly stronger in their key attacking personnel (mainly Jota and Kyogo). 

Also, Postecoglou had better resources to call on from the bench, with Mooy (midfield) and Abada (wide forward) being stronger than their Ibrox counterparts.

And significantly, in goal, Celtic had a huge advantage due to the rapidly declining powers of McGregor.