WHEN Tom Boyd stated in commentary for Celtic TV recently that “it was great to have our Rogic back” it got me wondering if this was strictly true. That is, has Tom Rogic rediscovered lost form as Boyd suggests or, alternatively, has Ange Postecoglou repurposed a player he knows well in a kind of rebirth?

Present... sort of

An issue with Rogic has always been availability. Despite a large frame allied to balletic ball skills, he is not an athletic player.

Injury has been a constant curse with a seemingly slow recovery to match fitness cycle on top. He has lost 93 matches to injury since 2014-15 while making 206 appearances in the same time.

READ MORE: What is Celtic's strongest XI after arrival of Hatate, Maeda and Ideguchi?

This season he has appeared in 54 per cent of all Celtic’s on-field minutes. It does not sound a lot, but Rogic has never completed more than 48  per cent of all Celtic’s minutes (2017-18) and usually nearer 40  per cent.

With 29 appearances and 1,750 minutes thus far, Rogic is on track for his most 'present' season yet. Only twice in his Celtic career has he achieved double figures for 90 minutes completed but he is on eight already.

Being fit and well is a solid start.

A jump to the right

A look at StatsBomb shows Rogic has predominantly played as a central attacking midfielder or '10' in every season.

Celtic Way:

Not only has he shifted position, he has done so with increasing discipline. You can see above from the 8.4 number (equivalent number of 90 minutes) for 2021-22 and the reduced red distribution, that he has stuck to task on the right side of the midfield three with less variation – see 2018-19 for a contrast.

This role is made for a player like Ryan Christie. Athletic, aggressive, quick to the challenge and with an engine that allows box-to-box running throughout the game.

Few would argue I have just described Rogic. This has been one of the many compromises Postecoglou has had to make to play the style of football he craves.

How has it changed Rogic’s game?

Defensive performance

Although his defensive output is up on the last two seasons, his Possessions Won per 90min (2.06) and Successful Challenges/Interceptions per 90min (2.78) are still well below his 2015-19 period.

This fits with Boyd’s observation that he is getting back closer to Brendan Rodgers era Rogic in that respect. But it's hardly revolutionary.

Risk taker

What does stand out is his attitude to risk.

Despite playing a deeper role, there is evidence Rogic is taking more risks in his play. This is where seeming negatives can actually be positive. Let me illustrate.

Celtic Way:

In summary he is losing the ball in the final third more often (19  per cent more), failing to complete 117 per cent more dribbles, failing to complete four per cent more crosses and giving the ball away more than he ever has in his career through passing.

But what this shows is a player adding risk into his game, which is exactly what is needed when faced with the type of packed low block evident at St Mirren recently.

So, this is a 'good thing'? Well, yes. Provided there is an upside to the risks taken.

Risk and reward

As an attacking player, he will ultimately be judged by output, so what of goals and assists?

Celtic Way:

This shows what could be characterised as natural age-based decline in output, especially as regards scoring. From a 2016-17 peak of nearly a goal every other game, Rogic has regressed steadily to a mere 0.15 goals per 90min thus far this season.

His assist rate, however, has improved over time and his nine this season (only one behind leader Liel Abada) are coming at a healthy 0.46 per 90min, maintaining last season’s career high rate.

Is he getting what he deserves? To answer that w must consider Expected Assists and Goals (xA and xG):

Celtic Way:

What this shows is that this season is shaping up to be his most productive of recent years as both xG and xA are at their near peak.

Why is this? A look at his SPFL shot map from StatsBomb:

Celtic Way:

There was a debate by some of us spreadsheet junkies on Twitter on this. Many thought “still too many shots outside the box and others “yes, but look how central and also, they are not THAT far outside the box”.

Indeed, Rogic is taking more shots inside the box (1.7 per 90min) than he has since the 2017-18 season (1.74). Last season that fell to just 0.99 per 90min.

Now 58  per cent of Rogic’s shots are inside the box – the first time I have recorded him having more than half his shots from this position.

However, one of the reasons his actual scoring rate (0.15 goals per 90min) is so far below expected (0.4 xG per 90min) is that many of the shots are blocked (51 per cent) and only 21 per cent hit the target (his best season was 50 per cent).

He is taking shots from better field positions, but not optimally in terms of defensive coverage and likelihood to hit the target.

A few adjustments to shot decision making, though, and the underlying data suggests he may hit a purple scoring patch. His current All Shot Conversion Rate of just five per cent is pitifully low.

Is that it?

All the above illustrates slight shifts in Rogic’s performance which are generally positive (more risk) but without commensurate reward (low scoring rate).

To understand where Rogic’s improved performance and contribution has been transformative, we need to introduce the concept of 'packing'.

Packing measures the effect of completed forward passes and dribbles where at least one opponent is 'taken out the game'. It is more powerful than “progressive passes” because it scores the pass/dribble (how many opponents taken out) and recognises the contribution of the passer (vision, pass accuracy) and receiver (movement, ability to find space, control).

Think of passes that break lines – there are fewer opponents between the ball and goal than prior to that completed pass.

Let’s look at the three components in regards to Rogic (i.e. pack passing; pack pass receiving and pack dribbling):

Celtic Way:

All are improving over recent seasons, and being on the receiving end of forward passes shows huge growth.

This is likely a function of playing that bit deeper and being easier to pick out compared to the crowded number 10 spaces.

There is also the special on-field relationship Rogic seems to have formed with Cameron Carter-Vickers. The American international is responsible for 54 pack passes to Rogic (for context there have been 36 to David Turnbull and 12 to Callum McGregor).

The diagonal inside through ball from the right-sided centre-back to Rogic, already on the half turn, controlling the ball and taking it past the first challenger in one movement, has become almost the signature Celtic move of the season.

This isn’t just an exercise in counting actions on a spreadsheet. The benefit to the team is the ability to break the initial press or deep line, and get a player of Rogic’s control and vision facing up to a retreating defence.

The net result, in terms of Rogic’s contribution to opening up opposition team lines, has been transformative.

Here are his overall packing scores:

Celtic Way:

If you read my stuff here or on Celtic By Numbers you will know I bang on about small margins all the time. This isn’t a small margin. 

Rogic’s repurposing as an '8' rather than out and out '10' has seen his contribution to getting Celtic forward increase significantly.

Consequently, he is on the ball more. From an average of 46 possessions per 90min over the previous four seasons, this season he is averaging 53.

You want your most creative players on the ball more.


A healthy Rogic is a handful for most teams.

A repurposed Rogic is taking more risks in the final third, even though his output (especially goals) does not yet reflect that. An underlying xG of 0.4 per 90min suggests a flurry of goals is to come.

The biggest benefit of Postecoglou utilising him in the midfield three is that, due to his strength and control, Celtic are able to get up the field and through defensive lines more effectively.

READ MORE: Johnny Kenny scouted-  The Sligo up-and-comer with finishing touch and 'fighting spirit'

Rogic still lacks the defensive output necessary for a truly all-round box-to-box midfielder, and new arrival Reo Hatate may prove to be a perfect foil.

To circle back, I think both Boyd and I were correct in different ways. We have Rogic's old self back in terms of goals and assists (expected at least) but Postecoglou has got new tricks out of the old Aussie dog as well.

Let’s enjoy what is shaping up to be Rogic’s most productive season, something few of us expected a year ago.