Pars Saint-Germain made it a dozen against Celtic in the Parc de Princes as goals flew in from every angle during a Champions League nightmare. Rodgers thought the performance not as bad as against Barcelona last season when 7 goals had also been conceded. Is he right?
As always, if furrowed of brow, the Glossary will see you right.
Always Crashing in the Same Car
The 7 goal reverses in Barcelona and Paris, and the home 0-5 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain, rank amongst Celtic’s worst ever defeats by goal volume. The so-called European “super clubs” fuelled by oil and state money, with €40 million players on the bench and genuine aspirations to win the Champions League, are always likely to hammer teams in pot 4 of the seeding. Few Celtic fans expected a win in Paris, but signs of gradual progress a year on from the start of the Rodgers reign is not unreasonable. Even Celtic, with their domestic financial dominance, rarely register 7 goal beatings despite playing part time teams on occasion.
Context is important. The Barcelona game was the first group game of the season and all was to play for. Celtic were fresh from a 5-1 Glasgow Derby win that demystified the Warburton Magic show. Four of the back six that night (De Vries, Gamboa, Toure and Sviatchenko) now rarely figure under Rodgers, but the rest are all match squad regulars.
The Paris Saint-Germain game was important to the home side, eager for 1st place in the section and seeding in the last 16 draw, but already qualified. Celtic knew a win guaranteed European football post New Year should Anderlecht lose to Bayern Munich. Celtic also knew the consequences of defeat were unlikely to make the imperatives of the last game at home to Anderlecht much different. There was also the prospect of a domestic League Cup final following on the Sunday. But this was Rodgers’ team as regards the line-up.
So, it didn’t “feel” like progress, but how do the numbers compare?
The first table shows Celtic’s performance statistics in the two matches against Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain.
This table shows the opposition performance statistics against Celtic
Our old friend Expected Goals is quite instructive. Although both sides had 10 shots on target, and both scored 7, Barcelona’s xG of 4.29 is by far the higher, compared to Paris Saint-Germain’s 1.608. What this means is that the quality of chances Barcelona created that night was significantly better. On average, this would have resulted in over 4 goals. Paris Saint-Germain on the other hand could have scored 2 or less on another night given expected chance quality. The last 3 Paris Saint-Germain goals in particular were stunning finishes that ordinarily would have an approximate probability of being a goal 7%, 7% and 5% of the time respectively. Cavani’s Batistuta-esque volley was finishing of the highest order. Alves’s long distance googly resembled a Shane Warne wicket taker at the Gabba. Verratti’s low cross shot, after unfortunate ricochets off Celtic defenders, right in the corner through defenders and from a difficult angle.
By comparison, in Barcelona, Neymar fizzed in a 25 yard free kick De Vries should have saved. But at least 2 of the Barcelona goals were tap ins from inside the 6-yard box after Celtic had been cut apart and another 2 clear shots from central locations worked from quick passing.
The point is that Barcelona cut through and out played Celtic whilst Paris Saint-Germain relied more on brilliant (and unsustainable?) high quality finishing from poor probability chances. From a coaches perspective you don’t want to see your team cut apart, but can accept the odd world class finish you can do little about. Over simplistic, but a case for supporting Rodger’s assertion of improvement.
Certainly Paris Saint-Germain had less possession than Barcelona and Celtic were able to maintain possession for longer than at the Nou Camp. The teams’ styles do differ however, with Paris Saint-Germain looking to get more crosses into the aerially gifted Cavani. Celtic’s Possession Effectiveness Index (which is a useful aggregation of whether the team keeps possession given all the possession events during a game) was vastly superior in France (82% to 66%). Celtic had more shots at goal in Paris, but had only 1 on target compared to 2 in Spain.
Where I see less progress is in the relative passivity of the Celtic play. Notoriously (scandalously?) only 3 fouls were conceded in Barcelona. Now I am the last person to espouse overly aggressive football, but when your players are less talented than the opposition (unimpeachably this is the case here), sheer hard work and commitment have to be used to close the gap. And that means stopping the opponent playing too easily through you. It took until the 78th minute for Celtic to concede a foul in the second half – and even then Neymar slipped over as Rogic challenged. As we will see below, Celtic were simply too easy to play against. How many goals against triggers sheer professional pride?
The tackling and foul statistics above are (crudely) suggestive of that. Similarly, 7 defensive errors in each game is indicative of poor organisation, communication and decision making under pressure. The concession of goals in rapid succession is another worrying indication of mental weakness and lack of resilience.
In the more mental and physical elements of the game therefore, (as opposed to the technical and tactical aspect) I cannot make a case for improvement to back up Rodgers’ post match observations.
Give Everything Away
And in that spirit it is worth raking over the first half goals, and this decided the game. I am not analysing the second goal on the basis I considered this world class passing, movement, speed, control and finishing. Hard to defend for the quality of player we have. For the other 3 first half goals, we have to do better or further multi goal hammerings are in the future.
Celtic can’t, again, look like absolute beginners.
The Prettiest Star (!)
What does €222 million get you? Whether it provides sufficient impetus to win the Champions League is to be seen, but if you want to habitually hammer Celtic, Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior is your guy. 4 assists and 1 goal a year ago for Barcelona, a mere 2 goals and 2 assists followed here. Love him or otherwise, he delivered, by numbers.
One match is a very small sample, clearly, but I hope this illustrates how the highest level can be measured. In particular, the concepts of Packing and Impect show Neymar’s value in all facets of attacking movement – i.e passing, receiving in attacking areas, and dribbling. Hopefully he is done tormenting Celtic.
Bhoy of the Match
Not an easy one this. As always there were glimmers of good performances.
- Gordon could not be faulted for the goals, each hit into the corners and made 3 saves.
- Simunovic was error free and was not overly stretched.
- Tierney was his energetic self and tried to take the team up the pitch.
- McGregor provided attacking threat, achieving a CAT Score of 7.
- Dembele scored, lead the team with 72 Impect and CAT Score of 8, but was just bested by our other French youngster.