Matt O’Riley reveals tactical ploy that can add yet more Celtic goal threats

The multiple goal threat mantra Ange Postecoglou delivers consistently is certainly working out for his Celtic team across the early weeks of the season.

Matt O'Riley congratulates his close friend Moritz Jenz after the German centre-back's second goal in two Celtic outings. The tally from goals from this area of the side is now four from three league games but the 21-year-old midfielder believes there could be even more to come from this area for the Scottish champions. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)
Matt O'Riley congratulates his close friend Moritz Jenz after the German centre-back's second goal in two Celtic outings. The tally from goals from this area of the side is now four from three league games but the 21-year-old midfielder believes there could be even more to come from this area for the Scottish champions. (Photo by Rob Casey / SNS Group)

In three cinch Premiership games, no fewer than 10 goals have been plundered, by no fewer than seven players. As would be expected, goals have come from the forward line – Kyogo Furuhashi netting two with Giorgos Giakoumakis claiming one – and the middle third of the pitch, courtesy of two Jota screamers and Liel Abada getting in on the act. What proves a surprise is that it is Celtic’s centre-backs that have accounted for a greater share of the 10 than any other department.

In every game so far, no less, the Scottish champions’ pivots have pitched in. Stephen Welsh headed in Celtic’s first goal of this campaign to set his side on their way to a 2-0 opening weekend win at home to Aberdeen. Moritz Jenz, as his replacement, conjured up another headed strike to fashion a goalscoring debut that was crucial to the 3-1 win over Ross County in Dingwall the following weekend. And then for last week’s 5-0 mauling of Kilmarnock in Ayrshire, just for good measure Jenz produced a classy overhead kick before Carl Starfelt, as a substitute, helped himself to the first goal of his 13-month Celtic career.

What all these strikes from defenders have in common is that they were the product of set-pieces. And, in addition to central midfielders being sure to chip in along the way, Matt O’Riley believes the tactical approach from Postcoglou’s men offers the possibility of yet another goal source. In the form of net-rustling moments across open play from those whose primary purpose is perceived as goal prevention.

“It’s important that we have a spread of goals from all over the team. That’s the case especially with the way teams play against us in Scotland,” said the 21-year-old Danish international. “They really try to stop us from playing our game and we need to find a way past that. Take the Ross County game as an example, they were following the midfielders all over the pitch. I would run out wide and that left Cameron Carter-Vickers with the space to run all the way up the pitch and shoot. That kind of shows that we will have to use as many options, and resources, as we can to score in certain games this season. Sometimes in Scotland, we need to wear teams down and then look for the openings after 60-70 minutes. Spaces can open up even more at that point and I think late goals could be quite common this season with the way teams are being set up. Being patient is important, we need to find the space when we can and then it’s a case of being clinical when we get the chances.”

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Celtic have enjoyed a relatively genteel introduction to the season owing to their title success earning them direct entry to the Champions League, which has spared them European qualifiers across the month. Their opponents this weekend Hearts aren’t so fortunate, rolling into Parkhead on Sunday fresh from the Swiss leg of their Europa League play-off three days earlier. The contrasting schedules would appear to give Postecoglou’s men an advantage in energy-levels for the fixture. But O’Riley believes the benefit of a one-game a week first month to the campaign won’t just help in the league games contested across the period.

“Having had extra training time helps some of the new boys adjust to the way we are playing,” he said. “This four-week spell when we don’t have midweek games should help us a lot. The players’ bodies will get used to the training and that’s good, as come September it is going to be pretty full on. Having this period is going to help us later in the season.”

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