Matt O'Riley to Celtic: A potential Tom Rogic understudy who could play a major role against Rangers

Celtic’s admirable on-line community of data analysts have spoken. Should, as expected, Matt O’Riley be confirmed as Ange Postecoglou’s fifth signing of the January transfer window on a £1.5m deal from MK Dons, the club will have themselves a potential understudy to Tom Rogic.

At 6ft 2ins, lithe and left-footed, and assuming key playmaking duties for the League One side he seems to be now departing, there are obvious parallels with Postecoglou mainstay Rogic. There are, though, also crucial differences. O’Riley doesn’t possess the velvet touch of the Australian, or the balletic movement. However, what the 21-year-old appears to be able to produce in common with Celtic’s attacking funnel is moments that make goals.

It may be the third tier of English football, but his returns on this front across the first half of the season are mightily impressive. The Londoner - eligible to play for England, Denmark and Norway courtesy of his Danish mum whose mother tongue he can converse in fluently - is a ball player with bite. Across 2,549 minutes of competitive football he boasts seven goals and six assists…which works out at a goal action roughly every other game.

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It is his range of passing and composure that is regarded to account for his potency in the final third. And provides him with a profile making it easy to see why he is an attractive proposition for Postecoglou. Not least because Rogic is set to be lost to international duty for Celtic’s next three cinch Premiership games - including the Rangers derby on February 2 - and David Turnbull is sidelined by injury. In this scenario, newbie Reo Hatate is essentially the only naturally attacking midfielder Postecoglou will have at his disposal over this period to deploy in one of two such roles that are pivotal for his system, wherein Callum McGregor screens behind such a twosome.

MK Dons midfielder Matt O'Riley is closing in on a move to Celtic. (Photo by Pete Norton/Getty Images)

Postecoglou had to flog Turnbull and Rogic across the opening five months of the season because he had no alternatives allowing him to rotate. Both players suffered hamstring injuries as a result, the one sustained by the Scotland international in the League Cup final on December 22 likely to keep him out until March.

Patently of the mind that he needs at least two players for every position, in terms of his dual playmakers, this is the one department of the team where the Celtic manager has been still short of that even until this week…even with the humungous rebuild he has overseen in pretty short order. The acquisition of Fulham academy product O’Riley, who has grown to become a “brilliant” player across 18 months with MK Dons according to the club’s former manager Russell Martin, would mean one more major base being covered, then.

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