Celtic have been hit with several injury scares over the current international break.

Japanese forward Daizen Maeda is the latest to return to Lennoxtown following Liel Abada and Anthony Ralston, who have also both pulled out of their respective international camps too.

Although Celtic have been relatively fortunate on the injury front this season, these fitness concerns are not exactly well timed ahead of the business end of the campaign.

Greg Taylor, left out of Steve Clark’s squad for Scotland’s double-header against Cyprus and Spain, is another member of the squad with a current injury problem.

Despite the international omission, Taylor did start the final league match before the break, the Hoops' 3-1 win over Hibs at Parkhead.

The left-back was not 100 per cent though and was subsequently withdrawn on the hour mark. After missing out on the home league match against Hearts earlier this month too, the break might well have come at a good time for Taylor as he looks to shake off a potential ongoing injury issue.

In general, though, the 25-year-old has continued to thrive under manager Ange Postecoglou this season. His return to full fitness over the break would certainly be a boost as Celtic chase down a treble.

His hour against Hibs in that last game before the break saw the former Kilmarnock man make his 24th appearance of the season, the same as his total for 2021-22.

This offers a good opportunity to compare the Scotland international’s data and assess how much he has continued to improve in his second season under Postecoglou…

Defending

Looking at his defending numbers first, we can see he hasn't been as active in this part of his game.  

Although his possession-adjusted tackles are up slightly, his possession-adjusted interceptions are down over two per 90. This could simply be down to Celtic’s even greater dominance (they are averaging 69.69 per cent possession in the Scottish Premiership, up from 66.99 per cent last season) so there might just be even less defending to do.


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Similarly his pressing numbers, which are down across the board, can also be attributed to Celtic’s overall drop in pressing in the Scottish top flight this season (102.34 per 90 compared to 116.53 per 90 last season).

His defending radar does highlight areas of increased effectiveness in his work off the ball. His ball recoveries per 90 have jumped from 8.57 last season to 10.10 this season. He has also been more formidable one-on-one, being dribbled past less often, and tidier in his defence work by committing fewer fouls.

Possession

At first glance, his possession data appears roughly consistent with last season. However, there are some big changes in his on-the-ball tendencies this season compared to last.

In particular, they highlight Taylor's growing influence on Celtic’s ball progression. His deep completions (passes/dribbles into the opposition third) have jumped from 8.20 per 90 last season to 13.62 per 90 this season – over three more than any other player in the Scottish Premiership this season (minimum 900 mins played).

This increase in progression, passing or carrying the ball into the opposition third over five more times per match this season compared to last, has also led to Taylor attempting over 10 more open play passes in the opposition third too – again, more than any other player in the league (min. 900 mins played).

Celtic Way:

Not only has Taylor experienced sizeable jumps in volumes of these ball progression and attacking possession metrics but he has also been more accurate with his passing percentage (up from 84 per cent accuracy to 86 per cent).

Coupled with his increase in general passes, this equates to over 13 more successful passes per 90 overall this season compared to last season.

This has meant rises in both his xGBuildUp and xGChain values this season.

These increases in volume and efficiency, coupled with a drop in successful crosses, from 0.92 per 90 last season to 0.55 per 90 this season, point to Taylor being even more acclimatised to the nuances of the full-back role in Postecoglou’s system.

Specifically this impacts the inverted aspect of the role, which means more passes from the middle of the pitch rather than delivering crosses from wide areas.

In this respect, then, it is clear Taylor really has taken this part of his game to another level this season.

Attacking

Progressing the ball is where Taylor has come into his own this season but he has also seen an increase in his attacking output too.

His key passes and assists, also mapped above, are roughly similar. His overall xG assisted has dipped ever so slightly but his key passes per 90 have marginally increased.

His main increase on this front has come in front of the goal though. His increased shots per 90 and xG per 90 have resulted in three goals so far this season, compared to none last season.

This enhanced ability to pop up in areas where he can be a goal threat is clearly another area of Taylor’s game he has worked on. Against the low blocks Celtic regularly face in the Scottish Premiership, this has been an added bonus.

As Postecoglou said after Taylor's opener at home to Livingston in February: "I think again on nights like tonight when the opposition are going to try and stop our attacking threats, the ability of other players to pull up in areas where they can be a goal threat and score goals is important.

"He's done that on a number of occasions this year and I think there's more to come from him."

Conclusion

Taylor’s attributes meant he was always well-equipped to adapt to the Postecoglou era.

A midfielder in his youth at Kilmarnock, the inverted aspect of the full-back role has played to Taylor’s technical strengths – his passing and movement – while his stamina and fearless work rate have seen him cope well with the increased physical demands of covering more ground too.

As well as playing to his strengths, the role also minimises areas of his game which are not as strong, such as the need for him to dribble too often or beat a man one-on-one.

His ability to take this to the next level, as shown here, has been impressive and ultimately what has limited ÂŁ3.75million summer signing Alexandro Bernabei to just a handful of starts in green and white in his first season.

Bernabei has been an able enough understudy, and may yet become a regular in the future, but Taylor’s swift return to full fitness for the run-in will certainly be timely as Celtic aim to turn an already fine season into a truly memorable one.