Friday, 11 March 2016

Are there goalkeeping problems in the City of Discovery?

I recently wrote a blog about how Celtic had been performing this seasonand a small part of it focused on Craig Gordon. It turned out that the Hoops goalkeeper had the third highest save percentage in the division at the time of writing, behind only Aberdeen’s Scott Brown/Danny Ward combination and Neil Alexander of Hearts:
A throwaway sentence within that piece sparked a Twitter exchange that found its way to Dundee goalkeeper Scott Bain, a comment he has since deleted. He was understandably unhappy at being called out for having the second lowest save percentage in the league.
Funnily enough Bain has just been called up to the Scotland squad for the friendly with Czech Republic thanks to his performances this season. He could even make his debut this time, having not featured when last involved with the squad in May 2015.
I should start by saying that I think goalkeeper is one of the hardest positions to analyse. Using statistics to judge players is still in its relative infancy and it can be difficult to know which statistics are useful and which aren’t. Indeed, goalkeepers often have so few interactions that their individual data sets are quite small.
Key elements of being a goalkeeper such as organising the defence, commanding the box, sweeping behind the back line and judgement when catching or punching crosses are hard things to rate. The analytics community often decries this, but at times these so-called intangibles can be just as important as the performance elements that can be measured more easily.

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What has gone wrong at Celtic?

This may seem like an odd question.
After all, Celtic are three points clear at the top of the Scottish Premiership with a game in hand. They are also well placed in the Scottish Cup; with a quarter-final against mid-table Championship side Greenock Morton to come. Indeed, they might have progressed to the final of the League Cup too but for an early red card in the semi, yet Ronny Deila is under severe pressure.
Celtic have seemed to underperform constantly. The perceived difference in quality between them and the rest of Scottish football means that many people expect them to win the league at a canter, triumph in both cups and most importantly make at least the group stage of the Champions League every season.
The main issue for Deila appears to be the improvement of Aberdeen. In fact in 2014/15 Aberdeen actually had a better record against the other 10 teams in the Scottish Premiership before the title was won:
It is common to hear that since Rangers’ demotion Celtic do not have any genuine competition. However, this is clearly not true at the moment, with Aberdeen capable of taking points off Deila’s side as well as the others in the division. Already this season they have taken six points from Celtic and if they can replicate their form from the rest of 2014/15 against the other clubs they would have a great chance of pushing the Glasgow giants all the way.
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