The SPFL Premiership title race looks like it is going to be a close one, so Celtic need to make the most of all the small margins available in the last 16 matches of the campaign.

As a team, Celtic’s xG average of 2.17 is higher than Ange Postecoglou’s rampant attacking machine of last season on 2.09. That seems surprising, and if we dig a little more the xG generated from open play was 1.72 but 1.68 this campaign. Celtic have benefitted from nine penalties in the league, whilst last season it was only eight over the whole season.

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Celtic need to be more clinical from open play. xG per shot is down from 0.11 to 0.1. This may seem a tiny drop but over the season that equates to 8.15 xG less than last season's total.

Team effectiveness

If we consider all competitions, there are comparable shot statistics at the team level.

Shot accuracy has improved from 37 per cent to 39 per cent but despite this, only 12 per cent of shots result in goals compared to 16 per cent last season. The differential is even starker when we consider that on-target shot conversion has fallen from 43 per cent to 31 per cent.

As my colleague on the Huddle Breakdown James Daily - to whom I defer on matters of goalkeeping - has often remarked, last season the opposition custodians often had a stinker against Celtic. This season, that is not the case. StatsBomb has the opposition goalkeepers on ball value (OBV) at an average of -0.79 per game. The next ‘worst’ was -0.47 versus Aberdeen. This season that has improved markedly to -0.11 OBV per game from the opposition netminders.

So, one explanation is simply that goalkeepers are being less awful against Celtic. Let’s look at individual players.

Player effectiveness

We’ll consider midfield and attack only including those who’ve completed over 900 minutes. Here are the shot numbers from last season and this season.


Kyogo Furuhashi, Daizen Maeda, and Aaron Mooy all achieved or were close to converting 60 per cent of their shots on target in 2022-23. No player comes close to this with Furuhashi the only one breaking 40 per cent (44 per cent). In addition, Giorgos Giakoumakis, Reo Hatate, Callum McGregor, and David Turnbull were all near 40 per cent conversion for their on-target shots.

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Some goalkeeping improvements! Only three players are converting over ten per cent of all their shots out of six this season. Last season it was ten out of 11. Maeda remarkably has hit 58 per cent of his shots on target this season yet only 36 per cent last season.

Kyogo's remarkable 64 per cent conversion rate from on-target shots and 30 per cent of all shots was likely not sustainable and his on-target conversion rate has fallen by 20 percentage points to 44 per cent. The only ‘good news’ story is Matt O’Riley - who managed to convert a measly four per cent of his shots last season. This is now 16 per cent.

Here are the average xG values per shot taken.

Last season, four players averaged over 0.2 xG per shot every attempt. This season the highest average is only 0.18 from Kyogo.

No one has replicated Mooy’s effectiveness - the Australian took 73 per cent of his efforts from inside the box. Yang’s average is considerably less than Liel Abada’s last season and Luis Palma’s average is under that achieved by Jota. Only O’Riley has improved his average xG per shot. Although he has not yet completed 900 minutes, it should be noted Paulo Bernardo’s average is only 0.12, whilst Oh Hyeon-gyu is at 0.16. Turnbull on 0.19 is the only one close to the 0.2 target.

The increasing prevalence of compact low blocks may be a contributory factor. Last season around 25 per cent of shots were blocked and this season it is 30 per cent. That could also point to poor shot decision-making, however. Celtic’s main striker, Furuhashi took a remarkable 91 per cent of shots inside the box last season and that has fallen to 79 per cent.  Similarly, Maeda took 90 per cent inside the opposition area whereas this term it is at 76 per cent.


Celtic are increasingly up against low blocks and opponents who sit in with men camped on the edge of their box. Perhaps because of this, more long shots are being taken to force mistakes and openings.

Last season, opposition goalkeepers performed well below expected against Celtic and this has somewhat reverted to the mean this campaign.  Also, the standard of goalkeepers in the SPFL has probably risen with the recruitment of the likes of Jack Butland, Dimitar Mitov, Will Dennis, and Zachary Hemming.

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Celtic had some outlandishly good numbers from Kyogo that were likely unsustainable, especially last season. However, given the downgrade in winger quality, it can also be argued that the team is not providing the same quality of chances to their talismanic striker. So, as always, there are many factors at play.

I think we can expect, with players bedding in and evidence of improved team cohesion, that individual numbers will improve over the rest of the season. Certainly, the team numbers in the league are holding up despite the individual trends.