After being relatively immune for much of the season Celtic have caught a recent, and hopefully minor, case of the injury bug.

This season’s increased squad depth has likely helped with the ability to rotate players and manage injury risks while maintaining quality. Aaron Mooy and Tomoki Iwata’s absences from the Hibs game appear to have been due to relatively minor ailments but Reo Hatate’s early withdrawal may risk a longer recovery period depending upon the severity of the muscle injury.

Celtic’s improved depth this season has been highlighted by the current scenario. During autumn 2021, David Turnbull and Tom Rogic ended up playing the vast majority of minutes in a busy calendar of fixtures, with Turnbull’s body eventually succumbing to the workload. 

Following the return from the September 2021 international break, Turnbull played in all 23 fixtures – starting in all but the return leg versus Real Betis – through to the League Cup final against Hibs when he was injured on December 19.

READ MORE: The month that made David Turnbull

That comprised a span of 100 days and, in 20 of those games, he was not relieved by a substitute. Turnbull averaged 89.91 minutes per appearance over the period.

The stretch of games and performance levels he and Rogic provided were a major factor in Celtic being in a position to make the move towards winning the title over the second half of the league campaign.

When Callum McGregor was out injured for several weeks during the period, their depth was tested with the likes of Nir Bitton, James McCarthy and Ismaila Soro called upon to patch together a midfield. Imagine if they had suffered three absences all at once?

Turnbull’s current season has not been nearly as active but his limited minutes have still been very productive.

For example, these on-ball value and attacking radars compare some of his performance metrics in league games this season with the stretch of games after the World Cup that has resulted in many adding Reo Hatate to player of the year debates:

Over a similar number of minutes played, the two players have been fairly comparable even though the workload was not. In the 92-day span following the return from the World Cup, Hatate played 18 games with an average of 69.44 minutes per appearance. 

Here were comparable radars displaying the 100-day period last season for Turnbull with Hatate’s post-World Cup period this term:

Once again, Turnbull’s performance metrics from that were comparable. 

As I wrote last week, it is important not to conflate the concept of value with quality when it comes to assessing and comparing players.

Turnbull and Hatate present different strengths and weaknesses – and this is not an argument being made that the former is a ‘better’ or even an equal quality of player. 

Instead, it is a celebration of the heroic nature of Turnbull’s autumn 2021 efforts and how they may be underappreciated within the timeline and narrative of Ange Postecoglou and Celtic’s ascension over the past season and a half. 

Turnbull’s ability to play at a high level when called upon is emblematic of the resilience Celtic currently enjoy – and of the daunting task domestic opposition face.

He is not too bad an option to have as the likely second midfielder off the bench in a scenario where Hatate remains out for a prolonged period due to injury.

While a quick recovery by Hatate is certainly the primary hope, this quality depth suggests that Celtic will be just fine while they wait for him to return.