Celtic have signed 23-year-old centre-back Gustaf Lagerbielke from Swedish side Elfsborg. A replacement for fellow countryman Carl Starfelt, who recently left the club, Lagerbielke has joined the Scottish champions for a fee of around £3m.

Here, we take a closer look at Lagerbielke’s playing style, strengths and weaknesses to assess what he will add to Celtic’s defence.

Player Profile 

A late developer, Lagerbielke came through at FC Djursholm before going on to turn out for several other clubs in his homeland in the early years of his career, including AIK Solna and Sollentuna FK. He then joined Elfsborg from the second-tier side Vasteras SK in 2021.

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He started the 2022 season with Elfsborg but was then loaned to fellow Allsvenskan side Degerfors for the remainder of the campaign. He has since gone on to establish himself as a mainstay at Elfsborg this year, though, making 15 appearances for the current 2023 Allsvenskan league leaders. A former captain of Sweden's under-21 side, he made his full international debut earlier this year too.

In terms of his position, Elfsborg have heavily favoured a 4-2-3-1 shape this year with the predominately right-footed Lagerbielke playing on both the left and right of the centre-back pairing, but more often the left (1,152 minutes at LCB, 166 at RCB). He does have some previous experience as a right-back as well (1,351 career minutes) but he has not played there since 2020. 

A towering presence, the central defender stands at 6ft 3in, which makes him Celtic’s tallest centre-back if he were to make the move to Parkhead. He is not super pacey but he is mobile enough to cover depth sufficiently. 

Data Analysis 

The chart below can help build a clearer picture of Lagerbielke’s profile. Using Wyscout per-90 data converted into percentile ranks, the chart compares him to other centre-backs who have played over 1,000 minutes in this year’s Allsvenskan (36 players). The chart is split into three sections and covers several key attacking, possession and defending metrics.

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Taking his defensive section first, we can see Lagerbielke has, perhaps unsurprisingly given his height, been active in aerial duels (6.57 per 90) with his volume of aerial duels per 90 the highest of all players included in the dataset. He comes in at just under the 75th percentile for his win rate in these types of duels so far in the 2023 league season (64.58 per cent). In terms of defensive duels, he has averaged 4.86 per 90 and boasts one of the most successful win rates in those types of duels among his positional peers in Sweden’s top tier, winning 76.06 per cent of them so far this year. 

READ MORE: Maik Nawrocki's impressive Celtic competitive debut analysed

For the other two defensive metrics included in the chart, Lagerbielke’s 5.32 possession-adjusted interceptions per 90 ranks in the 33rd percentile while he has made an above-average 0.62 blocks from shots per 90. 

The possession section of Lagerbielke’s chart is where things get particularly interesting. The first thing that stands out is his very low rank for carries (a combination of dribbles and progressive runs), the 23-year-old has only registered two dribbles (0.14 per 90) and one progressive run (0.07 per 90) in this year’s Allsvenskan. He doesn’t rank particularly highly for the volume of passes either, in the 41st percentile. This is down to team style though as despite topping the table in the Allsvenskan, Elfsborg are not a possession-based side, averaging less of the ball (47.7 per cent) than their opponents this season. 

When Elfsborg are in possession, Lagerbielke is the most likely involved though with his 50.03 passes per 90 more than anyone else in the squad who has played a minimum of 1,000 minutes.

He appears very positive in possession too with a significant proportion of total passes being either forward (24.37 per 90) or progressive (11.98 per 90) and while you would maybe usually expect to see players' accuracy drop somewhat over longer/more progressive distances, Lagerbiekle actually boasts a better success rate in his progressive passes (79.43 per cent) than forward. His rank for his overall passing accuracy, although higher in real terms (85.64 per cent), ranks lower in comparison to other centre-backs in the league too. 

Finally, on his percentile rank chart, we can see, like Celtic’s most recent centre-back signing Maik Nawrocki, that Lagerbielke offers a decent goal threat. He has contributed two goals in the Allsvenskan this year (0.14 per 90) which sees him rank in the 93rd percentile. He also found the net three times in the 2022 Allsvenskan season.


Lagerbielke's ball-playing abilities are undoubtedly his standout attribute. As seen in his chart, he almost maxes out compared to his positional peers in Sweden when it comes to not only the volume of his progressive passes but, crucially, his accuracy too. 

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The above graphic from Wyscout maps all his ball progression actions from the last calendar year. As well as highlighting that disparity between his passing and carrying when it comes to ball progression, it also shows just how long Lagerbielke’s progressive passes are with 132 of his 326 progressive passes in the last year over 40 metres. The below graphic reinforces this, showing no other player in the Allsvenskan has averaged a longer pass distance than Lagerbielke (27.08 metres). 

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Crucially again, as can be seen in the ball progression graphic, Lagerbielke boasts an impressive 89.4 per cent accuracy rate for his progressive passes over 40 metres, which is the highest success rate of all four of his progressive pass distances. Unsurprisingly then, there are many examples of the defender executing accurate long-range switches of play and balls over the top of defences. Lagerbielke rarely ventures too far before looking to execute these passes (conforming with his low carrying numbers).

READ MORE: The Celtic revolution signposts: Pressing like demons and long balls

Comfortable and composed in possession, Lagerbielke will often, when playing as the left centre-back, look to shift the ball onto his right as soon as possible, opening up his body for a quick switch passes to the opposite side of the pitch, as shown in the below example.

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These passes are not floated, hopeful punts into space either, they are flat, driven, and as noted, highly accurate. There are also examples of him dropping the ball into space in midfield, as shown below, or clipping nicely weighted vertical balls into attackers in the channel on his side.

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Although he will predominately use his stronger right to pull off these passes, he is also capable of executing precise long-range passes off his ‘weaker’ left foot too, as shown in the below example. 

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With Elfsborg often overloading one side to create space on the other for Lagerbielke to hit with his accurate long-range passes, it is obvious that he has been a primary ball progressor for the Allsvenskan table-toppers. This clear tactical approach may therefore, as mentioned, explain his low ball-carrying numbers – individual event data often paints a picture of team style as much as anything, especially for a centre-back. So just because he isn’t tactically asked to do something doesn’t necessarily mean he can't so do it. 

That said, even though he was a bit more active in terms of ball-carrying in the 2022 Allsvenskan season (0.81 dribbles per 90, 0.24 progressive runs per 90), which was mostly with a different club in the same league, it is unlikely that Lagerbielke will offer too much in terms of carrying. It is therefore unlikely he would come in and suddenly effectively drive through lines with the ball. 


As evidenced in his percentile rank chart, Lagerbielke shows up well defensively against his positional peers in Sweden’s top flight, particularly in defensive duels. This generally passes the eye test too with Lagerbielke strong in the challenge. He uses his body well and likes to get close to his opponent to jockey for possession with intensity.

READ MORE: Three of Celtic's best homegrown defensive transfer options

Similar to Nawrocki, Lagerbielke is quite proactive and will often look to win the ball high when he can, as shown in the below example where he demonstrates good anticipation before adjusting his body well to nip around the side of his opponent, cutting the ball out well over the halfway line. 

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Below is another example of Lagerbielke’s tendency to jump high to win the ball. Here, he charges towards the line of the pass with his presence enough to put the intended recipient off, allowing Lagerbiekle to regain possession for his side.

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As successful as he usually is in these types of duels, Lagerbielke does still need to develop his upper-body strength to be more robust in contact, especially against more physical forwards, as the below example shows. 

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Here, he stands up his opponent well but is then outmuscled when making contact. He does enough to force the attacker away from the goal on this occasion, mostly thanks to his large frame still presenting a significant hurdle, but you would look for him to become sturdier in these situations as he develops physically. 

This extends to his aerial duels. As seen in his percentile rank chart, his win rate in aerial duels is comfortably above average for an Allsvenskan centre-back, which should translate well enough to Scottish football. However, given his height, his advantage in these situations could be even greater. Again, this is something that should come with further physical development and general experience.

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He has certainly already utilised his height advantage well enough to pose a decent threat in the opposition box though. Lagerbielke’s considerable height advantage means he often doesn’t need to get too far off the ground to get first contact on free-kicks and corners in the opposition box, an example of this is his goal from Elfsborg’s recent win over Malmo. 

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Starting on the edge of the box, Lagerbielke shows good aggression and strength to get in front of his marker as he makes a run towards the front post.

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With the delivery on point, the defender only needs to jump slightly off the deck to get good contact on the ball and divert the ball into the far side of the net. 

Lagerbielke has likely not been identified for his goal-scoring ability but given the club’s first-choice centre-back pairing over the last two years, Starfelt and Carter-Vickers, as great as they have been in general, only managed six league goals between them across 2021/22 and 2022/23 SPFL Premiership campaigns, adding a greater goal threat from centre-back would be no bad thing. Interestingly, this is a trait that Nawrocki has also shown before his recent move too. 


Lagerbielke is a fascinating prospect. He profiles as a modern-day ball-playing centre-back and, although he definitely has a few areas of his game to tidy up, he demonstrates enough quality to suggest he can challenge for one of the two starting centre-back positions during the season. 

Despite being a year older, he does not have as much experience as Nawrocki though, who has slotted in well in his first few weeks as a Celtic player, while Carter-Vickers is undoubtedly the first pick at centre-back. Lagerbielke may therefore have to show some patience before getting his chance to impress.

If he does, though, his skill set could also be particularly handy in Europe. As Alan Morrison highlighted in his recent column, Celtic have already shown signs of looking to play a bit longer under Brendan Rodgers, both in pre-season and in the opening league game against Ross County. 

READ MORE: The Celtic defensive deficiencies that frustrated Rodgers

Rodgers may look to deploy this tactic to a greater level on the European stage, exploiting higher opposition defensive lines and avoiding the intense, organised pressing game of top-level continental opponents. Lagerbielke’s highly accurate long-range passing has the potential to offer a potent weapon if this were to be the case.

Not tested anywhere near that level in his career yet, it remains to be seen if he could translate that skill to the elite European environment. If he could, though, rather than just simply alleviating pressure, Lagerbielke’s ability on the ball could help Celtic exploit opponents by getting pacey forwards like Kyogo Furuhashi, Liel Abada and Daizen Maeda attacking space in behind. 

That may be a longer-term benefit of the 23-year-old’s potential arrival. In the short term, he will comfortably be the Hoops’ third-choice centre-back, quickly re-strengthening a key position following Starfelt’s departure and allowing, hopefully, the club to move on to strengthen a couple more areas of the park before the end of the summer transfer window.