Celtic have scored 13 goals in their last 10 league games despite averaging 2 per league game overall and scoring more than 100 in the league last season. Only 6 have been scored in 5 since the New Year break. Creative Deficit and League Performance Regression? Yes. Here’s Why explained how injury to the most creative players has hampered Celtic. But there is another significant factor. Where have all the long shots gone?
Last season 29 goals were scored from outside the box. In 59 matches that’s 0.49 per game, nearly 1 every other game. 19% of all goals last season were from outside the box. And often they were vital goals:
- 14 (9%) put Celtic ahead from 0-0 – the crucial first goal;
- 1 provided a late 1 winner at Motherwell;
- 1 proved crucial to progressing against Hapoel Be’er Sheva despite it being the 3rd for 3-0;
- 1 brought Celtic level in the Scottish Cup Final; and
- 3 turned a 1-0 lead to a commanding 2-0.
Long range shooting is a good way of breaking down deep lying defences and when there are players capable of this skill on the pitch, the defending team must be mindful shape wise. Essentially Celtic become more unpredictable having players with this skill in the line-up.
This season 10 long range goals have been scored in 46 matches – 0.21 per game or 1 in 5. Celtic have looked more predictable, and without this threat from outside the box, are relying on navigating passes and crosses into packed boxes. Set piece generated goals have not gone up to compensate. Last season 7 were scored from set plays, and this season 5.
What are Celtic missing?
2016/17 Long Shot Specialists
18 of 29 long range goals were from three players, Armstrong, Griffiths and Rogic.
Firstly, here are the Accuracy rates – that is, the % of long range efforts that were on target:
Some of the sample sizes are quite small, and we can see from the raw data that the ones who take the most long shots are also the more accurate, broadly. Which is reassuring! Griffiths, Dembele, Rogic, Roberts and Armstrong all managed to get 30%+ of their long shots on target.
Here are the conversion rates – that is, the % of ON TARGET long range shots resulting in goals.
Having three players manage >10% conversion from on target long shots seems highly impressive, lacking any comparative data! Is that repeatable? It seems unlikely given the average probability of scoring from just outside the box is around 5%, reducing to about 2% at 25-30 yards. History and more data will tell, but last season may have been remarkable for the success of the long range shots also.
So, how about this season?
2017/18 Long Shot Specialists
Only Ntcham (3 – with the help of deflections) and Rogic (2) have score more than 1 goal from outside the box.
Comparing Accuracy rates:
The first problem is that the ones taking the most long shots are now not the most accurate. The ones that are most accurate have an admittedly low sample size. And, the most prolific long shooter (Ntcham), is not very accurate.
When considering on target long shot conversion:
The conversion rates have fallen off the cliff. Edouard leads the way, but this represents 1 goal from 6 shots. Hardly a meaningful sample. Ntcham’s rate does not replace those achieved last season by the top converters. You must go to last season’s 8th best converter (Forrest) before an improvement in conversion rate is seen. Armstrong scored 7 from 19 on target last season, and 0 from 18 on target this. Regression to the mean is a mean b*tch!
And then there is the other obvious problem. Those that are most adept at long shots have simply not been on the pitch as compared to last season. The top long shooters – Griffiths, Rogic, Roberts, Armstrong – have been missing recently, for many matches, and all at the same time. A key weapon in Celtic’s arsenal has, effectively, been decimated.
There is no evidence that relying on Brown, Ntcham, McGregor, Forrest and Sinclair to be effective from distance will bear fruit. As a result, Celtic can become predictable and teams can sit deep knowing the threat from 20-30 yards is hugely reduced.
Celtic managed what may turn out to be an unprecedented 29 goals from distance last season. 20 of them had a significant impact on the game, representing 13% of all Celtic goals. Last season Griffiths was scoring a goal from distance every 382 minutes, Rogic every 440 minutes and Armstrong every 484 minutes. This season the most regular long shot scorer is Ntcham every 772 minutes. And I as have shown over and over his shot selection is poor and his 3 long range goals have owed a lot to lucky deflections.
Not only have the top long-range scorers from last season not been as effective, they have also all been missing from the team at the same time, and for extended periods.
There are many reasons Celtic’s team performances have not been as effective as last season, and a hugely diminished threat of scoring from distance is one of them.