Celtic’s opening-day victory over Aberdeen brought many positives with Ange Postecoglou’s playing vision becoming increasingly coherent with this group of players.

Not having any new signings in the starting XI and only one brought on - Aaron Mooy - can be spun as regression or, at best, lack of progression.

But when the players selected show demonstrable improvement, you are potentially improving the overall performance without the risk of assimilating new talent.

From Sunday it looked like Stephen Welsh, Greg Taylor and Reo Hatate - in particular, as younger players - played with amplified confidence and purpose.

Jota vs Aberdeen

The stadium man of the match went to Jota, however. The ebullient Portuguese capped a typically busy performance with a spectacular top corner rocket to cinch the win.

His numbers were also impressive:

Celtic Way:

His goal further added misery to the Dons for whom he reserves special pain. It was also the first he has scored from outside the box in domestic football for Celtic.

Always available, his 'Pack receive' score of 142 was the highest in the team as was his overall Packing score of 175. Packing relates to the ability to give and receive forward balls that take opponents out of the game.

His CAT score reflects a range of attacking metrics to indicate an overall attacking threat. Eleven was the second highest of the game.

A well-deserved man of the match, you would think?

Taylor and Welsh may argue that point but another player had an arguably even more impressive return.

Matt O’Riley vs Aberdeen

O’Riley has looked sharp and confident in pre-season. He scored two sublimely assertive goals and has been particularly aggressive in his forward passing.

A highly-cerebral player, O’Riley seems to see things a fraction quicker than those around him and is blessed with the technical skills to execute his vision.

Against Aberdeen he created a remarkable six chances, one of which was finished by Welsh for the opening goal.

He also contributed five secondary assists – the pass before the assisting pass - which was two more than the next highest.

Celtic Way:

In addition, 27 per cent of all his completed passes took at least one opponent out of the game.

He completed seven passes into the opposition box, which was four more than Jota, while as an attacking threat he matched the Portuguese's four shots but registered a higher overall xG (0.4).

Finally, he had the highest expected scoring contribution at 1.27 and the highest overall CAT Score of 16.

It does not end there...

Pack recovery / Pack turnover

This is a new metric for the 2022-23 season to add to the Packing data.

A Pack recovery is when you intercept or recover the ball from an opponent and, as a result, a number of the opponents are now 'wrong-side' (i.e. in front of) the ball in relation to the goal they are defending. Essentially it is a defensive action that results in taking opponents out of the game.

You get points for the opponents taken out – added to your Packing score.

The Aberdeen match was the first time this data had been collected.

The top Pack recoveree? O’Riley managed five, then Josip Juranovic three. His overall Pack recovery score of 37 was 17 more than the next highest (also Juranovic).

There is another side to this. A Pack turnover is when you give the ball away resulting in your team-mates being wrong-side. In this case, you generate a negative Packing score.

Celtic Way: O'Riley's pressures and recoveries map vs AberdeenO'Riley's pressures and recoveries map vs Aberdeen

O’Riley had only one of those and it was his last action before being substituted, quite tired, in the 82nd minute.

Contrast this with Hatate, who gave up four Pack turnovers for a -29 Packing score for that aspect.

O’Riley’s ability to read the game and, despite not being the quickest, counter-press the opponent is one of his more subtle skills. He led the team with 26 pressures according to StatsBomb – nine more than Taylor. He was also equal top on counter-pressures with six.

Only Welsh registered a higher on-ball value from StatsBomb than O’Riley (1.07 to 1.11).


O’Riley got the season off and running providing the assist for Welsh after three minutes.

He then posted the best creative and scoring stats across the group. Also, he excelled in the new pressing and counter-pressing stats reflected in Packing data.

It was a true all-round performance from a player made for the style his manager sets out for him.