It is fair to say that there has been a lot of debate about Celtic’s style of play under Brendan Rodgers, especially compared to his predecessor.

Those of aParkhead persuasion were used to the high-intensity, all-action style of Ange Postecoglou for two seasons, with the now-Tottenham Hotspur manager winning five domestic trophies during his 24 months at the club. Since Rodgers – who managed Celtic from 2016-2019 – returned to the fold, there has been plenty of discussion about whether or not the football has improved since his second homecoming, which many thought was a pipe dream before it transpired.

Despite suffering a dip at the start of the month, Celtic managed to win all four of their domestic fixtures during the festive period, including a 2-1 win over Rangers in the Glasgow Derby. Their last fixture before the break was against St Mirren in Paisley, where they ran out 3-0 winners against Stephen Robinson’s depleted side.

READ MORE: The proof Celtic's players have bought into Rodgers' style

In this match, Celtic were at their free-flowing best, controlling the match's tempo to perfection, as they had their way with the Buddies for the duration of the proceedings. Scoring three well-worked goals, Rodgers’ side arguably displayed some of their most fluid football since his return, which coincided with a fourth win in a row in the Scottish Premiership.

Using Wyscout image stills, The Celtic Way dissects and discusses all three goals that were scored on Tuesday night, as well as some of the key performers who contributed to the team’s successful trip to Paisley…

Daizen Maeda goal (1’)

A consistent feature of Celtic’s game in recent times is that of fast starts in matches, with this was most evident in Paisley on Tuesday. After a gruelling 90 minutes (plus stoppage time) against Rangers just three days earlier, you could have forgiven Celtic for being slow out of the traps, but this was far from the case on the night as the visitors were ahead after 54 seconds.

In the first still above, Celtic’s captain Callum McGregor was in the process of controlling the ball, though he was being pressured by Toyosi Olusanya (who picked up an unfortunate red card at the end of the half). Always calm in these sorts of situations, McGregor was looking to distribute the ball to another of his midfielders in the form of Matt O’Riley, situated just in front of the captain. In playing this quick pass to his teammate further forward, McGregor eliminated two of St Mirren’s middle-men, allowing O’Riley to move into space virtually unopposed. This attack will happen in a flash, with Robinson’s men effectively being bystanders to a thrilling Celtic move.

Using a clearer camera angle following the goal transpiring, you can see how good a position this was for O’Riley to operate. In just a matter of seconds, the Denmark international was goal-side, with two options in Kyogo Furuhashi and Maeda to potentially call upon. Alas, he went for the latter, who was looking to overlap his marker on the right wing. Knowing that the pass through to the Japan stalwart had to be inch-perfect, O’Riley composed himself and played an intricate ball to the winger, who managed to get on the end of it.

From this point, Maeda had only the goalkeeper Zach Hemming to beat in between the St Mirren sticks. Quite a rash finisher, the forward had been served a massive opportunity on a plate by O’Riley, with virtually all of the defenders apart from the goalkeeper now out of the game. He took his shot and it hit the on-loan goalkeeper before finding its way into the back of the net.  Ironically enough, the finish was the messiest part of this goal, as the two passes leading up to the opportunity for Maeda were perfect by McGregor and O’Riley.

As mentioned previously in the StatsBomb report published on Wednesday, Maeda’s xG of 0.41 decreased to 0.35 by the time the shot left his boot, though credit must still go to the winger for being able to finish off this great early move by the champions. It would not be the last time we would be talking about PSxG decrease in this game, however…

Paulo Bernardo goal (6’)

Passing out from the back has been a key feature of Celtic’s game for the past few years, especially under Rodgers and Postecoglou. It was this method of play that was vital in the make-up of this goal, regardless of the ever-changing defensive line-up at the back.

Not picked up in the still, Maik Nawrocki played the ball to his defensive partner Liam Scales, who has been a revelation all season since returning to the team. A key feature in the last game against Rangers, Nawrocki’s quick pass will signal the start of the second goal for the second consecutive game. Passing to Scales, the Ireland international has one thing on his mind, which is to advance the play further to his attacking teammates. An admirable skill, Scales knows the limitations in the game and also knows that the likes of Luis Palma – whom he passes to – have a higher chance of hurting his opponents than he does, so he distributes the ball to the Honduran.

The play has progressed, and Palma found himself on the wing looking to cut inside to a better area. Bernardo was in front of him and was looking to make a move into the box to support his fellow attackers, not unlike his counterpart O’Riley, who was doing the same below him in the attack. Both would be key, shown in the next couple of stills, to Celtic doubling their lead on the night.

Again, using a different angle to show the move more clearly, Alex Gogic went touch-tight to Bernardo as he found himself with his back to goal. What he does next is a piece of magic from the Portugal under-21 international, as again Bernardo impressed in this festive period. Not a weak player whatsoever, Gogic is held off and turned by Celtic’s number 28, allowing himself a better angle to work with as a result. Observe O’Riley’s position, as he was unmarked just behind Bernardo, leaving him free to run ahead and provide himself as another outlet for the attack.

Not seen in this still, Bernardo’s pass was a good one and found O’Riley just outside of the box. O’Riley – Celtic’s standout player this season – took a phenomenal first touch to get past his marker, before sliding his finish underneath Hemming. A cracking assist by Bernardo and another goal for O’Riley, which was his 20th goal contribution of the season, coinciding with his 100th appearance for the club.

Like Maeda’s goal, however, O’Riley’s PSxG fell as a result of his shot selection. This drop was more dramatic, as his xG of 0.26 decreased to 0.09 following the shot. Perhaps this was down to aiming the shot straight at the goalkeeper, when he may have been better off aiming for the left or right corner of the goal. Regardless, it was well-taken, leaving Hemming with two conceded goals in just six minutes of play, a nightmare start for St Mirren and Robinson.

Greg Taylor goal (60’)

By the time this goal had transpired, Celtic’s job had been made even easier, thanks to the sending off of the aforementioned Olusanya for a studs-up challenge on Joe Hart thanks to a VAR intervention. Rodgers’ side was on the hunt for more goals, and they would get another 15 minutes into the second half of proceedings.

You can tell that this goal had been practised on the training ground, as all contributors to this move knew where they had to be for this move to be executed correctly. McGregor on the ball was again effectively unmarked, given the freedom of Paisley in the process to work the ball into an attacking area. Look at Taylor – the goal-scorer – in this still. He was pointing out exactly where he wanted the ball from Bernardo before the midfielder had even received the pass from his captain. Ready for the pass, the Portuguese playmaker was on his toes for McGregor’s imminent pass to him.

St Mirren will not want to see this goal again, as the players involved do not get anywhere near Bernardo on the edge of the box when it mattered. By the time they tried to close him down effectively, it was too late. Greg Taylor was going to get his wish, as Bernardo played an audacious lobbed pass with the outside of his foot to the left-back, who was making his way into the box. Not unlike Palma’s assist to Oh Hyeon-gyu against Aberdeen a couple of months ago, this pass was destined to meet its target in the shape of Taylor, who was sensational on the night.

Taking it first time, Taylor side-footed Bernardo’s pass exquisitely into the back of Hemming’s net. It was a finish that Kyogo would have been proud of, never mind the Scotland international, as he showed his quality and composure to drill the accurate distribution past the impressive St Mirren goalkeeper.

In what was a crazy night for xG and PSxG scores, Taylor’s shot was consistent with the two other conversions as it too scored lower following the contact. From 0.25 in xG to a PSxG of 0.12, Celtic’s shot selection was poor in the eyes of xG and StatsBomb, but all three strikes found themselves in the back of Hemming’s net all the same. It may be something that Rodgers looks at over the winter break, but as long as the shots are being converted then he likely won’t be too concerned in truth.


Overall, Celtic’s three strikes against St Mirren on Tuesday night were littered with quality and precision throughout. With a mixture of playing from the back and working the ball into good areas, the team played with a togetherness that has not always been there this campaign on the pitch.

With the winter break now in place, Rodgers and his side will be feeling a lot happier with how results and performances are transpiring. They can work on small things during this break – such as shot selection in front of foal – ahead of Buckie Thistle’s big visit to Celtic Park on January 21.

READ MORE: Celtic's Taylor is back to his best after Paisley showing

For now, though, everyone associated with the club can be reasonably satisfied with how the side has navigated their fixture list through the festive period. They will be hoping for more of the same when they return from their well-earned break in a few weeks…