As Celtic prepare for Rosenborg, the Linfield games highlighted the extent to which the attacking connections were left side dominant.
Here is the Pack Pass Map for the 1st leg. Note that this is not a map of ALL passes. It is a map of all passes where at least one opponent was taken out the game and it must be a forward pass. So, it maps the meaningful connections, where Celtic got closer to the goal and bypassed some of the opposition.
It highlights the left sided dominance through the combinations of Tierney, Armstrong and Sinclair. Brown and Lustig did well bringing Forrest into the game. But neither wide attacker connected with Dembele. The deep and well manned defence made forward linkage difficult and Celtic attempted many long-range shots.
In the 2nd leg, despite changes to shape and personnel, the pattern remained the same:
This is the first half only. In the second half Rogic and McGregor changed position and although this meant increased influence for Rogic, Forrest remained under worked compare to Sinclair. The Pack Passing reflects both the ability of the passer (spot the pass, execute it) and the receiver (make space, control the ball).
Forrest was the top pack receiver in the first leg – receiving 28 pack passes which took out 93 opponents worth 154 Impect. In comparison Sinclair received 23, taking out 77 opponents for a 137 Impect score. Forrest provided 1 assist and created 3 chances overall for an xA of 0.16. Forrest only completed 2 pack passes compared to 10 by Sinclair.
In the second leg, Forrest created 2 chances with an xA of 0.06 and only completed 2 pack passes compared to 8 by Sinclair.
Hayes came on for Forrest in both matches after 70 and 68 minutes respectively. In cumulative time on the pitch he completed 3 overall pack passes compared to Forrest’s 4.
Let’s look at completed dribbles over the two games:
Remember Forrest played 138 minutes and Hayes 42. Hayes completed the same number of overall dribbles but had significantly higher Impect score (57-35). Hayes was coming on later against tired opposition.
Forrest has received good service from the likes of Lustig (who is looking like a Pack Pass Master) and Brown. He produced an assist in the first leg, but very little in the second. Hayes has created a similar number of chances in 1/3rd of the playing time. He has also been more effective running with the ball.
It is a small sample. Forrest is an experienced player at European level. I fully expect him to start against Rosenborg. The Norwegians surely cannot defend as deeply and packed as densely in central positions as Linfield, who seemed primarily concerned with keeping the score down. They will expect to have chances for an away goal. This means there should be more space for the three attackers to connect.
But now we look a little predictable with left sided dominance. Another game with a similar pattern to the Linfield ties and Hayes must feel he is close to starting.
(I nearly got through the article without saying how much we miss you-know-who).