THE SCOTTISH Cup victory over Alloa Athletic came at a cost, with Callum McGregor seemingly lost to a serious injury for an extended period.

In addition, Yosuke Ideguchi picking up an injury via a dangerous challenge has further thinned the recent upgrade to midfield depth. Never fear, as the terrifically flexible Nir Bitton may be here to save the day.

The Israeli has had his moments of madness, including high-profile and costly red cards versus Rangers last season and the woeful judgment versus Midtjylland earlier this season.

However, his quality and flexibility have made him a valuable squad player when he has not been restricted due to injury. First, let’s take a look so far this season by comparing his time in midfield versus McGregor’s:

Celtic Way:

This first radar is one put together to summarise metrics that seem to be applicable to the deep ‘number 6’ midfielder role in Ange Postecoglou’s 4-3-3 system. As we can see, Bitton has fared pretty well from when he first returned to midfield in a league game on October 3 versus Aberdeen.

The next radar focuses upon passing and creative metrics in the deep-lying playmaker role:

Celtic Way:

Here we see Bitton has again faired pretty well, though he’s gotten forward less and created fewer chances for team-mates. However, McGregor’s sample does include his games as an attacking 8, so keep that in mind.

The next radar compares the two with defensive and pressing metrics:

Celtic Way:

Bitton is a standout on a relative basis with these metrics, which is probably not a surprise to many.

So how does all this shake out? This is where StatsBomb’s OBV metric can offer some insight:

Celtic Way:

Keep in mind that there are differences in opponents in the two samples, so none of this is a ‘perfect’ comparison, even if such a thing were theoretically possible.

READ MORE: How do Celtic replace Callum McGregor for crucial run of games?

However, it offers some solace that Bitton may provide a reasonable amount of production in McGregor’s, and possibly Ideguchi’s, absence.

The Bitton love-fest is not over yet, though. Most of the horrible mistakes he’s made have come while playing at centre-back. I argued a while back on Twitter that Bitton profiled well as a right centre-back in a back-three system due to his passing skills and relative mobility for the position.

He’s rarely been played in that role, but we can compare his time since the start of 2019-20 season up through this September, when the vast majority of his playing minutes in the league came at centre-back.

Here is his OBV over that period in league games compared to Carl Starfelt’s so far this season:

Celtic Way:

Here he was compared to Cameron Carter-Vickers so far this season:

Celtic Way:

I am not arguing that he should be used at centre-back, and the differences in samples make these comparisons flawed in various analytical ways while Celtic clearly have an acute need in central midfield.

However, Bitton has been one heck of a player and servant to the club when he’s been available to play and I, for one, am grateful he’s still around to offer his considerable skills and flexibility.