Grading centre backs will always be much more of a challenge than grading attackers. They…
The Scottish football season is finally over and although it was another clean sweep for Celtic in all competitions, there was still plenty of outstanding performances from individuals across the Scottish Premiership.
Before we all down tools and enjoy the summer off-season let’s take one look back at the stats to decipher which players were undoubtedly the very best in their specific positions throughout the last campaign.
Celtic finished the season with the best defensive record in the Premiership, however, Craig Gordon wasn’t nearly as busy as his shot-stopping peers across the division. When it came to shots saved per game Hearts’ own Jon McLaughlin came out on top with 3.7, which is almost exactly twice as many as Gordon averaged per match.
Indeed, when we consider that the Tynecastle side had the third best goals conceded record in the league yet their goalkeeper was the busiest throughout the Premiership campaign we can clearly see why McLaughlin deserves our praise. Craig Levein’s side may have finished sixth this season but they may not have made the top six at all without this fantastic player.
Despite just saying McLaughlin was pivotal to Hearts’ impressive defensive performances this season, we must also give credit to the central defender and captain standing just a few yards in front of him for much of this league campaign: Christophe Berra.
No regular central defender in the Premiership won more aerial duels per match than the 33-year-old this season, as he dominated almost every ball that dared to attack the Hearts box. And although other defenders were better at intercepting the ball or tackling oncoming opponents, Berra averaged a higher rate of general defensive actions in the league this season than any other.
No team relied on the expertise of their key defender quite like Hearts did this season and in return, Berra proved to his club and the league as a whole that he is still a super central defender.
Goalkeepers stop goals, defenders stop strikers and strikers score goals. But when it comes to picking the best midfielder in the Premiership this season we essentially had to pick a player that could do just about everything. And as such nobody came close to Celtic captain Scott Brown.
Not only did Brown play more minutes than any other midfielder in the Premiership this season but he also made more passes. And of those 2,609 passes, 93.41% of them were on target – an unrivalled degree of accuracy among his peers in the Scottish top flight. The Celtic captain was also one of the top 10 midfielders for interceptions and passes into the final third per 90 minutes.
Brown wasn’t just a midfielder racking up simple passes. He also defended and attacked as well as just about any midfielder in the league and ultimately proved to be the best all-rounder in the division.
Although some forwards don’t enjoy judging themselves purely on goals scored – i.e Nadir Ciftci, Steven MacLean – it’s basically impossible to consider a striker of the season without going straight to the complete turnaround Kris Boyd has had at Kilmarnock this campaign.
Bit part strikers like Jamie Maclaren at Hibs or Odsonne Edouard at Celtic may have tallied up more efficient goals-per-game ratios over the course of the season, but among strikers that played week in, week out (i.e over 2000 minutes of league football) Boyd’s 0.64 goals per game far exceeded his peers. Rangers’ Alfredo Morelos was second on 0.48, while Josh Windass finished third with 0.43.
Indeed, nobody came close to the 18 goals Boyd scored for Kilmarnock in the Premiership and in a number of ways the senior striker embodied the manner in which Steve Clarke has completely turned Kilmarnock around over the past eight months.
Every season rival fans predict with glee that Celtic’s elder statesman will begin to slow down yet we always tend to wrap things up in May with nothing but applause for the central midfielder. This year is no exception.
The Celtic captain may have axed his Scotland responsibilities but that has allowed him to continue dictating and leading his treble-winning team to continued success in every possible facet of Scottish football.
Not only is Brown the most obvious champion of Celtic’s star-studded side at a glance, but once we dug into the stats they did nothing but confirm just how important the midfielder is to Brendan Rodgers’ side. And that’s why he’s our player of the year.