As Celtic bounced back from their bruising 6-0 Champions League defeat to Atletico Madrid to hand out a 6-0 hammering of their own against Aberdeen last weekend, one man emerged as an unsung hero.

While winger Luis Palma stole the show with a hat trick of assists and a penalty, he was ably supported by left-back Greg Taylor, someone who has had a mercurial first few months of the season.

Deployed in the more traditional full-back role seemingly favoured by Rodgers in the opening weeks of the campaign, Taylor has gradually reverted to the inverted role in which he excelled under previous manager Ange Postecoglou as the season has gone on.

Here we take a closer look at Taylor’s start to the season and how he has continued to play a key role in Celtic’s build-up play.

‘Reverting to Inverting’

Although there were plenty of mitigating circumstances in the early weeks of the season, none more so than the lengthy list of defensive injuries that led to constant changes in the backline, it was clear Taylor was struggling with being asked to perform a more conventional full-back role by Rodgers.

However, by the end of September, as highlighted by Alan Morrison at the time, Taylor was starting to find better form by moving back towards that more inverted full-back role, something that was a hallmark of Postecoglou’s tenure.

This is a trend that has continued in recent weeks, illustrated by the below pass maps. Starting with his pass map from the opening league game of the season, the 4-2 home win over Ross County.

Here we can see most of Taylor’s passes occurring in deeper, wider areas of the pitch, essentially more ‘traditional’ full-back positions.

Last week’s performance against Aberdeen paints a different picture, one which has been more prominent as the season has gone on. Here, Taylor is more involved in possession higher and further infield again. There are also fewer backwards passes (8 out of 62 total passes) than in the County game (20/88).

Below are just a few examples of the kinds of positions Taylor picked up in the comprehensive win over Aberdeen last week.

In this first one, shown below, we can see Taylor coming right around in line with left centre-back Liam Scales to receive vertically in the opening minutes of the match.

Later in the half, Taylor picks up an almost Callum McGregor role in the middle of the pitch to pick out his opposite full-back Alistair Johnston on the right.

The effect of Taylor taking up these positions is of course to to have an extra man in central areas, supporting build-up phases in possession but also forcing the opposition into wider areas in transitions.

StatsBomb data

StatsBomb’s data highlights how instrumental Taylor has been to Celtic working the ball into dangerous areas again this season.

The scatter graph above, which includes all Celtic players who have played a minimum of 600 minutes in the Premiership so far this season, shows no other player in green and white has averaged more successful open play passes in the final third or into the box than Taylor. These numbers are also unmatched by any other player in the league.

The above radar gives a more rounded picture of how Taylor has performed this season, in a domestic sense.

In line with Celtic’s average increase in pressures per match, Taylor is pressing more consistently but has dropped off in some other defensive metrics. Although his PAdj Interceptions are slightly up, PAdj Tackles are down a bit while he is also posting a higher foul rate and a lower Tack/Dribbled Past% (percentage of times a player makes a tackle when going into a duel vs. getting dribbled past).

Of course, there is some context around these numbers, Celtic have generally defended more in these early months of the season, for several reasons, such as the previously mentioned injury problems. Having more away games, at some of the league’s more difficult venues in the opening rounds of fixtures, has also played a part in the uptick of Celtic’s overall defensive work in the league so far.

The radar again highlights his importance in build-up play though with Taylor posting an average xGBuildUp value of 1.14 per 90, even up slightly on last season (1.03 per 90).

His Deep Progressions (passes and dribbles/carries into the opposition's final third) are again high too. His 11.54 per 90 average is unmatched in the league.

Scaling to Europe issue

So, we know Taylor has reverted to his previous role to good effect on the domestic stage again but this, as we have seen before, has not exactly translated to Champions League football.

Despite some encouraging signs in terms of overall team performance, Taylor has again, perhaps more than any others, found replicating the level of his domestic performances on the European stage a difficult task.

Although a small sample size of just 4.4 90s, the above radar highlights this. Of course, the increased level of opposition is always going to lead to some drop-off in these metrics. However, Taylor’s drop-off, especially in terms of ball progression and attacking passing metrics is quite stark.

His xGBuildUp (0.26 per 90) has dropped to less than a quarter of his Premiership level while he has only averaged 6.83 Deep Progressions per 90 in the Champions League, down from 11.54 per 90 in the Premiership. Defensively too, Taylor has posted an even lower Tack/Dribbled Past%, among the lowest of all full-backs in the competition.

Taylor’s physical limitations and defensive decision-making were badly exposed in the sobering defeat at the Metropolitano Stadium in Madrid in particular. He was by no means the only one who had a night to forget but even in the home match against Diego Simeone’s side, when Celtic produced their best performance in Europe this season to earn a hard-fought point, Taylor’s limitations were laid bare.

Naively giving away the first-half penalty, which Antoine Griezmann converted at the second attempt, Taylor was also culpable of backing off in the build-up to Morata’s goal in the second half too.

What appears to be happening is that the weaker parts of Taylor’s game, ones which have been masked by the more inverted role he plays domestically, are more often than not exposed when playing at this level.


It was clear Taylor was not suited to the type of full-back role Rodgers was looking to implement on his return to the Parkhead dugout. By reverting Taylor to the role in which he thrived under Postecoglou, Rodgers has again got the best out of the Scottish international.

Whether Rodgers sees Taylor in this role as the long-term answer to the left-back position remains to be seen though, particularly when it comes to that elite European level.

Perhaps only Celtic’s business this coming January or in the summer transfer will answer that question.