Yang Hyun-Jun made his starting debut for Celtic in the weekend stalemate against St Johnstone.

It was another disappointing team performance overall, and despite clear xG, possession, touches in the box and shots advantage, Celtic couldn’t find a way past the excellent Dimitar Mitov and chums. Despite this, the South Korean winger was a bright spark for Celtic in the 68 minutes he was on the park.

Although best known in his homeland as a right-sided attacker, Yang was stationed on the left-hand side in front of Greg Taylor and Liam Scales.


Perhaps the most eye-catching aspect of his play was that he was available to his teammates for the 'out' ball on the left-hand side. He received nine pack passes - mainly from Taylor and Scales - the joint most in the team on the day with Matt O’Riley, who played the full 90 minutes. His pack score from those received passes was 129, which was 45 more than the next highest in O’Riley. That means that not only did he receive the ball successfully, but he also took 67 players out of the game across his minutes from those forward passes.

In prior games, this is something Daizen Maeda has also been successful at, but the issue has been what happens once possession is secured. If we look at their respective Sofascore heat maps for this game, we get a good indication of the differences between them when receiving the ball.


You can see that not only was Yang able to receive the ball in wide areas high into the opposition's half, but he was also able to then affect the play within their box and do his work much higher up the field than Maeda. The Japanese international tends to drop the ball back off unless he has a clear run behind.

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There are two main reasons Yang was able to affect the game more in the final third in this way. This is from the 10th minute:


A simple pass from Taylor out to Yang, but because Yang’s starting position is so wide (feet on the chalk), and his body shape is open, he can receive the ball with the pitch in view and move forward.

A simple and obvious aspect but one that we do not see from Maeda as often. Being a right footer, he can attack the inside or outside from here. If we look at the StatsBomb passing network:


See that Yang’s average positions as regards receiving and giving passes is very high and very wide, precisely what Celtic have been missing in their matches so far this season. Most startling of all his performance data points was his volume of progressive runs. This is where the player covers at least ten yards with the ball forwards into the opposition half.

Yang completed ten such runs. Last season the highest average per 90 minutes was Sead Haksabanovic with 6.13. The highest average recorded was Jeremie Frimpong with 8.42 in 2019-20 season. So, Yang had a good high and wide starting position, great body shape to receive, and drove directly at the opposition.

End product

With all wingers, it is ultimately the chances created and shots taken that will count. Against St Johnstone, Yang created two chances directly (total xA of 0.42), and provided two secondary assisting passes (xA 0.12). One was a pass into the central danger zone for an O’Riley shot in the first half.

He only completed one packing pass – i.e., a forward pass that takes out opponents. This is mainly because one, he drove forward and got near to or into the box he would favour cutting back to his favoured right foot and look to cut the ball backwards. This can be a highly effective pass and -  as we see from his overall chance creation map from StatsBomb - that cut back from the left towards the centre of the box could become a trademark.


His one shot was a hurried left-footed effort wildly struck over the bar in the first half.

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Yang has given Celtic width and drive pushing the opposition back from receiving forward passes and maintaining momentum with clever running at pace showing excellent control and balance. He is capable of setting the defender off balance with quick movements and changes of direction.

So far, he has one excellent assist at Aberdeen for O’Riley but also wasted several final third passes versus St Johnstone. He lost the ball seven times in the final third without Celtic maintaining possession, second to O’Riley with 13. Including him provides a similar style of threat to Jota, although he may have a way to go to match the Portuguese winger's productivity. He certainly provides the front line with a more balanced threat than a combination of Maeda and Liel Abada.

I will report back further after 900 minutes of match evidence from Yang…