come as a surprise
Losing is hard no matter the context. However, losing is more difficult to take when…
Saturday didn’t exactly go to plan for Celtic. Sure, they overcame Aberdeen by a solitary goal and picked up all three points but in doing so they put on another abject performance that hardly galvanised a Parkhead faithful crying out for a return to form. Oh, and Odsonne Edouard was just about chopped in half by a horrendous, lunging tackle from Scott McKenna.
Remarkably – if not downright miraculously – Edouard escaped the challenge with no more than a dead leg. However, that minor injury may prove enough to rule Celtic’s most expensive signing out of Thursday’s Europa League clash with Red Bull Salzburg.
This would, initially, seem to be a truly troubling prospect. The perceived wisdom at Celtic – unquestionably preached by Brendan Rodgers’ consistent selections – is that Edouard is the club’s ideal front man when it comes to European football. However, when we look at the stats, there isn’t too much backing up that claim.
The graph above shows each Celtic forward (in this circumstance we’re counting James Forrest and Scott Sinclair as forwards) in European competition so far this season and although Edouard comes second only to James Forrest when it comes to minutes played he is routinely pipped by other players in the more important metrics.
For example, so far this season Leigh Griffiths leads the team when it comes to simple goalscoring, with a record of 0.76 goals per 90. Not only does that beat Moussa Dembele’s 0.67 but it’s also considerably higher than Edouard’s 0.56 goals per 90 minutes.
Naturally, when it comes to assists per 90 minutes Sinclair and Forrest take the lead, but again Griffiths comes out on top over his French counterparts with 0.38 assists per 90 minutes. In comparison Edouard sits on 0.19 and Dembele failed to provide a single assist in Europe before packing his bags for Lyon.
Some eagle-eyed readers may have noticed that Griffiths has only played around 200 minutes of European football this season, which may unfairly prop up his average metrics per 90 minutes, but when we take a look at last season’s figures they too showcase the Scottish striker proving himself as a better goalscorer when offered the exact same game time.
Last season Griffiths played 529 minutes of European football and Dembele played 551. Despite the latter’s reputation as the far more accomplished goalscorer on the European stage, Griffiths’ stats are far more compelling when we look back and compare the two.
As the graph above shows, the former Hibs striker averaged 0.32 goals and 0.48 assists per 90 minutes in European football last season, while Dembele only managed 0.23 goals and zero assists per game. In fact, no other Celtic player managed a combined higher average of goals or assists in European football last season than Griffiths.
Naturally, Edouard gets a pass when it comes to last season since he only played 43 minutes of European football, but as we can clearly see Griffiths outperformed Dembele last season and this time around he’s currently outperforming the club’s marquee summer signing.
Of course, the more nuanced aspects of each player’s style of play may be what Rodgers’ really considers before he picks his starting XI ahead of any given European tie, but if he’s simply looking for someone to put the ball in the back of the net or indeed provide a team mate with an assist Griffiths has proven that he’s as good – if not better – than Celtic’s other options.