Give Me Wings

Over the last few days following the Heralds claim that Forrest is reborn and with Celtic apparently looking at options to extend Roberts’ stay, I looked at Forrest having his best Celtic season and Roberts, dipping from a stellar start to his Celtic career, but showing tremendous potential.

Here is a “quick and dirty”  look at the 4 players vying for the 2 wide attacking positions in Celtic’s normal 4-1-4-1 formation. The natural wingers. Hopefully a bit of fun.

From the outset let me state my confirmation bias prior to looking at this: Sinclair would be far above them all and Mackay-Steven would be trailing badly in comparison to the rest.

One of the reasons for starting this blog was to challenge my own perceptions when watching a game with full supporter emotion mode on and to see what the games look like when subjected to cold fact-based analysis.

I have focussed on some key attacking data, as that is their primary role in the team. I accept, as I argued with Forrest, that defensive performance is also important and that may be one of the reasons Forrest is 1st pick in the AM R position.

The following data is for ALL Celtic games for each player for the last 3 seasons.

  • A reminder ‘90’ at the end means average number of events per 90 minutes – therefore Sinclair completes 26 passes in 90 minutes, on average.
  • ‘%’ means the value is a %!
  • Green means highest rated in that category; Amber means rated 2nd or 3rd and Red means rated 4th in that category all compared to each other.
  • I then gave each player 4,3,2,1 points for being ranked 1,2,3,4 and summed the totals (RANKING POINTS).

1. Roberts

Being Scottish I’ll start with the negatives. His dribble success is significantly worse than the others and he attempts 7 a game. However, this is surely a decision making coaching development opportunity (and we all know Modern Decision Making Coaching Development Opportunities are rubbish!!!).

He completes the most passes per game (33) and at a decent accuracy (81%).

His Chance creation of 1.11 per game is on a different level to the others although his assists of 0.26 per game may reflect that the creator is hostage to fortune vis-à-vis the recipient’s ability to finish. He also manages to create a chance with 49% of attempts at the difficult “final ball”.

He is also the most involved in the game of the 4, averaging 63 possession events. A player of considerable potential.

2. Sinclair

When I look at my notes on each game, it is surprising the number of occasions where I make a comment like “Sinclair: 20 minutes since last touch”. He drifts out of games for long periods and the evidence is he completes only 26 passes per game, and is involved in only 47 possession events per game. Now, like a thoroughbred sprinter, he may pick his moments well.

Bear in mind Sinclair’s data sample is smaller than the rest, and there may be some small sample anomalies. For example, he achieves the most assists per game (0.3) yet has the lowest chance creation of 0.6 per game. An explanation may be that I am quite generous with assists – Brown rolls it 5 yards backwards to Sviatchenko who runs 40 yards and tonks it in the corner – assist to Brown! Perhaps some of Sinclair’s assists have been of the “last pass” rather than “cut them open” variety?

What we do get with Sinclair is goals. A lot of shots and 15% of them all result in goals. His sheer productivity of 0.82 goals and assists per 90 mins will be difficult to maintain – or will it?

He is relatively inactive on the dribble front, being a player who explodes into space. Also, as the oldest of the group (27), he may also be wiser at making decisions and timing runs to receive the ball without the need to take on a player.

We don’t see much of Sinclair, but when we do, it tends to be productive.

We need more data and I cannot wait to see the end of season numbers for Sinclair.

3. Forrest

Perhaps surprisingly Forrest is the steady player of the group in that he has the safest passing (83%) and losses possession the least (PEI of 73%). He also completes more dribbles than Roberts and is successful with them 56% of the time.

He creates chances and has an assist rate commensurate with his peers.

Whilst Forrest’s decision making on passing and dribbling are good, his decision making on shots lags his peers. All shot conversion of 7% is a bit miserable, and 0.2 goals per game lags significantly behind Roberts and Sinclair.

I have not compared defensive performance, but would suspect he’d score highest.

Forrest is perhaps the “safe” pick in terms of overall team contribution.

4. Mackay-Steven

GMS has 2 major problems –

  1. he is not involved very much; and
  2. when he is, he loses possession frequently

His PEI of 64% is lower than all but the strikers at Celtic this season (and strikers will virtually always have a low PEI as they are usually under pressure when receiving the ball, and they generally don’t rack up high passing stats with nice easy 5 yard passes across the defence). The next lowest PEI for non-strikers is 73% for both Rogic (playing under pressure at AM C; always trying to be creative) and Forrest (see above). Nearly 10% lower PEI is significant.

Pass completion of 75% is also very low compared to peers.

On the plus side he has an effective long shot and his shooting is the most accurate and yields a respectable return of 0.26 goals per game.

He is the equal of his peers in assists (0.26 per 90) and his chance creation numbers are equivalent also.


At the risk of becoming a Roberts acolyte, his Celtic numbers albeit based on slightly regressing performance, suggest a player of significant potential AND delivery in the here and now. I hope we keep him as long as is possible.

Sinclair is incredibly productive and may also be incredibly astute in terms of pacing his game. He has completed 90mins 18 out of 27 appearances. Is there more to come and can involve himself more?

Forrest is having his most productive season at Celtic but can continue to improve his shooting technique and decision making on when to shoot. He is a solid team player in this position.

GMS is capable of moments of great skill and productivity, but is failing to be influential in games, and is easily dispossessed or makes poor passing choices. Will it work out for him at Celtic or could he star in a less pressured environment?

8 thoughts on “Give Me Wings

  1. One thing I’d add on Rogic….he doesn’t protect the ball well. Like Sammy before him, he just starts running with the balk, oblivious to position or intent if defenders. His PEI demonstrates this.

    Enjoyed your analysis.


    • Ronnie

      Needless to say I’ll look at rogic in more detail but his position. He does tend to get caught in possession a you rightly say. Thanks again

  2. Very enjoyable analysis. Congrats. Where did you get the data? Is it from match reports(your own and others), or are they opta stats?
    You are correct that player injuries and hence games played can affect the accuracy of your averages….that old square root of n!

    I’d love to see Griff vs Dembele!

  3. Hi Dave many thanks. The data is mine. I have recorded every game since the start of Deilas reign. You won’t find it anywhere else on the web!

    I am sure griff v dembele v other strikers in this period will be done. Follow on twitter as I will do twitter size updates such as individual player stats for those that can’t handle 1000 words! Thanks again

    • Do you record the distance travelled by each player per match? If so, could it be associated in some form with some of the other stats such as pass completion?

      You have put a tremendous amount of work into this. Well done.

      • Dave
        No I do not – I will be totally transparent about the limitations:

        I have no GPS data re distance travelled, number of sprints etc
        The stats I collect do not explicitly tell you “did a player make the right decision” but the history data should infer over time the players making the better decisions – ie better passing stats chances created, shots on target etc
        I don’t do video analysis – ie lets stop the play and look at every player and where they are standing and where the next movement is and is that the right decision etc – this is the high end stuff the professional analysts at clubs do given the appropriate tools and time. But I have thought about this and it is something I could expand to. (more time…)

        That’s why I won’t claim to have all the answers but rather put the data out there with some interpretation and let others have their say. I CAN guarantee no one else will have the team, player and opposition data points for Celtic games I have without paying an OPTA for the privilege.

        thanks for your comments they are appreciated

  4. This is the kind of analysis and even-handed interpretation I could read all day.

    Congrats on being able to challenge your own preconceptions and give due weight to the data.

    The downside is that there’s no place for this kind of stuff in a post-truth world 🙂

    • SFTB Thanks. I am as much a passionate supporter as anyone and have my own preconceptions on certain players. I want to challenge those with real evidence based analysis. Glad you enjoy.
      I guess I am hopeful there is a niche for evidence based analysis as opposed to the “he was crap” etc 5/10 style reporting.

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