International breaks are always an ideal time to reflect and analyse what has transpired thus far in the domestic season, regardless of the club.

With managerial changes and appointments - as well as national team qualification triumphs, amazingly - dominating the headlines currently, it can be easy to forget or overlook the job that is currently being done by Brendan Rodgers at Celtic. Indeed, the manager arrived with all the fanfare and buzz that you would expect from a high-quality operator acquisition, with the added spice and drama of returning to the club that he walked out on mid-season just four years prior.

He would be replacing the outgoing Ange Postecoglou, a man who had stolen both the collective hearts and minds of a large portion of Glasgow’s green side, delivering the treble before leaving for North London and Tottenham Hotspur less than a week later. After five trophies in two years, the lure of the English Premier League was too tempting for Postecoglou to ignore. Celtic needed a replacement, and they found it in an all too familiar face in Rodgers, managerless after being dismissed by Leicester City.

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With a proven track record from 2016-2019 in Glasgow at bringing success domestically to Celtic, the board managed to orchestrate a stunning return for one of their greatest modern-day managers, who decided to cut his managerial break short in favour of a return to the club he knew so well, both personally and professionally.

Fast forward to now, as we await Celtic’s return to Scottish Premiership action this Sunday against Hearts at Tynecastle, in what will be their ninth game in the league this season. What better way to assess how the returning Rodgers is doing than by comparing to where Postecoglou was positioned after the same amount of SPFL games? Where is Rodgers succeeding? Where does he need to improve, especially compared to his predecessor? Using StatsBomb radars from both last season and the ongoing campaign, let’s find out the truth…

Season Overview

Celtic after eight games last season had seven wins and one defeat - a 2-0 away defeat to Stephen Robinson’s St Mirren – with a total of 21 points amassed at the time. An incredible 27 goals were scored in those eight games, including nine against Dundee United away, as well as four at home to Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s Rangers, leaving them two points clear of their rivals at the top of the SPFL table. They had only conceded four goals in the league, leaving them with an incredible goal difference of +23, easily the highest in that regard.

This season, Celtic are undefeated in the league so far, winning seven and drawing one, which was a wasteful 0-0 draw with St Johnstone at home. In terms of goals, Celtic posted a lower volume of 19, a decrease of 8 from the same stage last season (though that 9-0 win the season previous may have swayed this number ever so slightly in that regard). After eight games, Celtic find themselves seven points clear of both Rangers and St Mirren on 22 points, a point better off than at the same stage last campaign. Despite their injury woes at the back, Celtic have only conceded one more goal than last season, that being five, though their goal difference is only at +14, six more than Rangers’ +8 at present.


Before looking at the respective radars for both attacking and defending metrics, it is important to outline the differing geographical landscapes of the 2022/23 and 2023/24 seasons. Remember, the last campaign was unique with regard to the winter break being brought forward, as the FIFA World Cup was held mid-season rather than the end of it like usual. This unfortunately meant a large build-up of games over a short space of time, which could in turn alter and manipulate statistics both positively and negatively.


As mentioned previously, Celtic have scored fewer goals this year than at the same stage last season, and it is shown in the attacking metrics on StatsBomb. The one statistic that immediately jumps out at you is for xG totals, which has seen a marked decrease in the transition from Postecoglou to Rodgers. In 2022/23, xG totals averaged 2.68 per 90 minutes, meaning that the team averaged between two and three goals per game based on the shots and positions taken when attacking the opposition. As you would expect - given the eight-goal differential between campaigns – these impressive numbers have lowered, though not disastrously. In eight games this season, Rodgers’ side averages an xG of just 1.79, a drop of 0.89, which also in turn means a drop from the 99th to the 94th percentile in this metric.

Rodgers’ side also takes on average fewer shots than Postecoglou’s well-oiled machine, dropping from the 98th percentile to the 97th thanks to 18 shots per game, compared to the Australian’s 20. There are some metrics where the two sides are statistically identical -specifically in high press shots and clear shots – where both are 3.50 per game – though this shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, as many of the same players under Postecoglou have elected to stay put and work with Rodgers.

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Not all of the attacking statistics are negatives, however, with some of the metrics making for encouraging reading in terms of the team’s adjustment to Rodgers’ methodology. This is seen in counter-attacking shots, which has been improved upon despite being admittedly low with regard to percentile ranking. Last season, Postecoglou’s Celtic only managed 1.00, with Rodgers’ side posting an increased volume of 1.13, a percentile jump of 11 rankings from 51 to 62. Improvements are also seen in box crossing per cent, which is the percentage of balls into the opponent’s box via crossing, as Rodgers’ side have decreased to 20 per cent, meaning more of their moves and actions have been through passing and shooting, a percentile increase from 59 to 97 in a year, an increase of 38 in total.

These findings must be caveated by the fact that Rodgers is only just in the door again at Celtic, whilst Postecoglou had a year at this stage to figure out how best to set up his team. This is why these statistics can be a little misleading at times, as good performances and results are sometimes lost in the analytics when looking at data from a statistical standpoint.


Despite Postecoglou’s sides being known for their attacking prowess, what was perhaps most underrated about his time at Celtic was how defensively sound he got his back-line, especially in his second season in charge. Four goals conceded in eight games was a mightily impressive return, though so is Rodgers’ five, in spite of injuries to Cameron Carter-Vickers, Maik Nawrocki and others at the back.

Still, some of these metrics show that a lot of work is needed to get to the levels that the Australian was demanding his players were operating at. Again, xG sticks out like a sore thumb here, and not in a good way. Last season, Postecoglou managed to achieve the top percentile in this run of games of the 100th variety, with an incredible xG conceded of just 0.42. Limiting his opponents to low-percentage chances, it meant that it would normally have to take either something special for Postecoglou’s side to concede, or an individual mistake. In a metric that Rodgers has got to improve upon in the coming months, Celtic average an xG conceded of 1.14 per game, a statistic that is far too high domestically. This perhaps links to the ever-changing back-line and the impossibility of it settling due to the constant change, but Celtic cannot afford to keep giving the opposition accumulated chances like this. Being in the 53rd percentile is damning, and improvements have to be made if the defence is to positively contribute to further success this campaign.

Sticking to shots faced, and Celtic on average concede more shots than they did last season, rising from 6.88 to 9.75, their percentile going down by 12 from 98 to 86 in rank. They could really be doing with decreasing this number, especially in protecting Joe Hart and his mixed form in goals at present. Rodgers’ Celtic also face more clear shots, with a rise of 0.75 to 1.75, compared to last season’s eight-game statistic of 1.00 per game. This is also the case in counter-attacking shots conceded, as 0.50 has risen to 0.88 from Postecoglou to the incumbent. It is clear that there is work to do on this front, despite the many factors that Rodgers has had to contend with in terms of both injury and new faces.

Unfortunately, there are not a lot of statistical positives when comparing Rodgers’ side defensively to Postecoglou’s outfit 12 months prior, but there are a few notable metrics that should be highlighted. In perhaps a shift in mentality, Rodgers’ side’s aggression stats have gone up slightly, from 0.19 to 0.21. Not a massive jump in terms of numerical, but an increase of 30 percentile rankings from 49 to 79 in rank. His side also keeps the opposition’s passing percentage to 67 per cent on average, the same as last season at the 96th percentile.


Overall, despite Rodgers having more points than his predecessor at this stage of the season, Postecoglou’s side outperforms the returning manager in many of the metrics, both in attack and defence. This could be for a multitude of reasons, such as new players fitting in, returning players adjusting to a new system, or the age-old problem that is injury in professional sports.

Of course, these are early days in Rodgers’ second tenure with the club, and the numbers posted on both ends will no doubt improve as the campaign rolls on. Winning seven trophies the first time around, Rodgers has proven that he has the skill and know-how to improve Celtic sides as the season progresses.

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With regard to Postecoglou, it is no surprise to see that the Australian is doing similarly stellar work down south with Spurs in the Premier League. He is cutting the mustard down in Europe’s toughest league, and his work up north in Glasgow has been nicely replicated in the area of North London.

Regardless of what season you look at, Celtic have been in pretty capable hands over the past couple of years, with the incumbent custodian’s managerial prowess really starting to kick into gear, judging by recent domestic performances. If this can continue, then it will no doubt be reflected in the numbers upon reflection later on in the season.