Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese philosopher, writer and general once said: “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.”

For Celtic, losing Ange Postecoglou just days after winning their eighth domestic treble could be considered chaotic, given the success the Australian managed whilst in charge of the football club. Five trophies in two years prompted the bright lights of North London and Tottenham Hotspur to make their move for Celtic’s prized asset, with the club put in the unenviable position of somehow replacing the influential Postecoglou ahead of the new season.

In terms of the club’s hierarchy, they certainly did do so, securing the return of Brendan Rodgers after four years away. His spectacular return brought that aforementioned opportunity, as a clean slate was put in place and implemented with regard to the existing players. This clean slate has meant that the likes of players such as Liam Scales and David Turnbull have been given fresh opportunities to play first-team football at Celtic, with their overall impact on the team varying on a case-by-case basis.

It has not been just out-of-favour players that have benefitted from this change of manager, as certain first-team regulars have improved thanks to Rodgers’ return. Kyogo Furuhashi now has more of an impact on the playmaking side of proceedings, whilst Daizen Maeda’s defensive and pressing numbers have skyrocketed onto another level, particularly in the last game against Livingston.

READ MORE: Celtic's Daizen Maeda displayed 'vintage' Livingston showing

However, there has been one player whose improvement has been stratospheric over the last few months - in the shape of midfielder Matt O’Riley - who has been Celtic’s standout player over the course of the opening months of the season. Four goals in six Scottish Premiership matches thus far tells us that, as he has matched his 2022/23 total for goals already, with two assists to his name also.

Indeed, breakout displays against the likes of Rangers and Feyenoord in domestic and European action have caught the eye of many. Defensively motivated and dangerous offensively, the tall attacking midfielder has stolen the show on numerous occasions so far this campaign, on both ends of proceedings.

Clearly, the proverbial ‘eye-test’ has O’Riley passing with flying colours, but what do the StatsBomb player radars tell us? Let’s find out…

StatsBomb radars 

In this statistical comparison, we are going to use two different radars for O’Riley, though from the same two years. Also, we are only going to be using analytics from the 2022/23 NS 2023/24 seasons respectively, as O’Riley had a full pre-season with the club to fully understand and adapt to each manager’s instruction. Therefore, the data from the 2021/22 season will not be used. Data provider StatsBomb has implemented a ‘2.0’ radar for each position, giving more metrics and analytics to investigate and compare.

In the first radar, what immediately springs to your attention is O’Riley’s xG total. In 2022/23, he only scored an average of 0.20 xG, whilst so far this season it has doubled (and then some) to 0.43. In doing so, O’Riley is in the 98th percentile for his position, indicating just how effective he has been in front of goal in the early part of this season.

This increased proficiency could be down to the fact that O’Riley is taking more shots on average per game, too. The midfielder found himself in the 76th percentile – not bad for his position by any means – last season, taking 2.32 per 90 minutes. This campaign, though he has risen to the 92nd percentile, taking 2.89 shots per game across his six matches thus far. A small but meaningful increase, in an area where Rodgers has suggested that O’Riley needs to improve further.

READ MORE: Celtic boss Rodgers says he can develop Matt O'Riley further

Small improvements seem to be the order of the day in many of these metrics, as O’Riley is adapting to Rodgers’ tweaks to the system. He is clearly a danger to the opposition, as his 1.13 fouls won per game is an increase on the lowly 0.64 last season, which placed him in the fifth percentile at the time. Similarly, he now completes more successful dribbles in matches, rising from 0.74 to 1.13, achieving a percentile increase of 20 in the process. O’Riley also has been taking better care of the ball this season compared to last, making a small improvement from 2.92 to 2.89. If he can improve further in this area, then the sky is the limit for how imposing the midfielder can be in the future, both short and long-term.

Admittedly, there are some areas that O’Riley still needs to improve on if he is to maintain this solid run of form, judging by some metrics. Despite being an efficient player with regard to pressing, his regaining of the ball following one of these actions could do with some work. This metric has fallen from 2.89 to 2.73, though this may be down to the fact that he is positioned further up the park, as Callum McGregor was injured last season, meaning O’Riley had to deputise in that deeper role. Similarly, his passing accuracy has dropped from 79 per cent to 76. This also may be down to his positioning, or his willingness to make intricate passes to those in front of him, which in turn are riskier to execute.

The second radar uses some of the newer metrics in modern football to display O’Riley’s effectiveness on the football pitch. One of these is OBV (On-Ball Value, a full definition can be found here.)

Speaking of OBV, O’Riley has improved in one area and regressed in the other. The positive can be found in Shot OBV, which has risen from -0.02 in the 39th percentile, to the 82nd percentile in 0.05. Conversely, his pass OBV has dropped from 0.12 to -0.00, a percentile decrease of 63 in the process.

A metric that is present in both graphs is that of touches in the box, which has lowered from 7.72 to 7.08, which drops him a percentile from 98 to 97. This could actually be seen as a positive, as he is making his touches in the box count when the opportunity arises. This could be a metric that fluctuates over the course of the season, especially if his dominance in games increases further.

Still only 22 years old, Celtic’s number 33 has plenty of time to improve, but the early signs are incredibly promising for that transpiring. This could be the season where the transfer vultures start circling for O'Riley's signature.


It must be highlighted and underlined that O’Riley too is getting used to this new system and style that Rodgers is implementing. If he can improve on some of the declining numbers from last season, then who knows the numbers that O’Riley could achieve in the coming years, both at Celtic and potentially beyond.

O’Riley has grasped this opportunity with both hands in Rodgers’ new-look Celtic side. The basic numbers do not lie, with four goals and two assists being numbers his teammate Kyogo would be proud of. You get the feeling that this is the tip of the iceberg for the former Fulham youngster, with that original £1.5 million price tag looking increasingly shorter by the game, with regard to MK Dons' fee.

READ MORE: The Celtic numbers: Maeda excels in both attack and defence

With a senior Denmark call-up seemingly in the offing, the talented operator will be exposed to an ever-increasing amount of eyes placed upon him. Judging by his performances so far, he can definitely handle the pressure such an achievement brings with it.