Celtic reaction: Remarkable 91% stat, immature use of VAR, what makes this team abnormal

Celtic were returned to their devastating selves with their 4-1 flogging of St Johnstone and we pick out three talking points from the match at Celtic Park.
Celtic's Callum McGregor takes the acclaim of the fans at full time.Celtic's Callum McGregor takes the acclaim of the fans at full time.
Celtic's Callum McGregor takes the acclaim of the fans at full time.

Postecoglou salvo had desired effect with incredible pass accuracy

Any manager who calls out his players for lack of “discipline” in getting on the end of crosses in the box, wants a reaction. Celtic’s Ange Postecolgou got one big-time with his team’s thumping win over the Perth club, that followed his dislike of so many forward aspects in their 2-1 win over Livingston at the same venue four days later. James Forrest and Daizen Maeda provided them the forward thrust in wide areas for the success that the players they replaced – more Jota than Liel Abada in this context – did not. Celtic swarmed over Callum Davidson’s men from the off. And even before Reo Hatate – his auxiliary right-back in the injury absence of Anthony Ralston – opened the scoring only 18 minutes in, it was a stick-on they would overwhelm their visitors. Forrest’s pristine use of the ball was central to that. No showboating, no over-cooking of attempts to fashion chances, he appeared to lose it only once during his 62 minutes on the field following a rare start. The upshot was Celtic converting a fifth of their 20 goal attempts – up from the mere eight per cent return across their previous five top flight outings. Most eye-catching in the difference Forrest made was that Celtic’s successful pass complexion rate was a remarkable 91%. Rarely will you see that figure bettered in senior football.

Immature use of VAR

It is offered with a heavy heart that Scottish officialdom’s deployment of VAR appears akin to a child given a complicated toy at Christmas that they plunge into using without reading the hefty instruction booklet. The desire of the arbiters of the rules not to end up guilty of missing anything feels as if it is leading to them getting involved unnecessarily. Rewatching the incident that led to David Turnbull’s 96th-minute red card, there was no sense he was guilty of ‘serious foul play’. Referee Kevin Clancy initially took this view, in showing the midfielder a yellow card for connecting with the face of keeper Remi Matthews with his boot as he leapt off the ground to meet a cross with eyes firmly on the ball. No-one, even of a St Johnstone disposition, would have felt ill-served by that outcome. Instead, the VAR operative considered Clancy required to the pitchside monitor in the belief that the ultimate sanction was demanded. Which he duly delivered to a ruefully scoffing Turnbull.

Astonishing consistency from Celtic

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It is possible to become blase over how Postecoglou’s men are ploughing their way through their top-flight commitments. It ought to be recognised how abnormal it is for a top flight team to win 17 of their opening 18 league fixtures, though. Across the entire span of league football being contested in Scotland – which dates back to 1890-91 – it has only happened five times previously. Rangers had a perfect record in winning all 18 league games in the 10-team set-up of 1898-99. They then won all but one of their opening 18 league encounters in 1920-21. More recently, Celtic only dropped points in a solitary match of their first 18 top flight outings of 2001-02, 2003-04 and 2016-17. These, then, are heady times for the Parkhead club.