David Turnbull of Celtic. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic juggernaut continued its relentless march towards credibility with yet another thumping 6-0 win at the weekend.
This time it was poor St. Mirren who were on the receiving end of the kind of thrashing usually reserved for a dust-ridden rug you might find in your Nan’s loft. Dundee felt the full force of Celtic’s newfound attacking impetus in the Hoops’ last Scottish Premiership outing, and Saturday’s display was a similarly dominant affair.
Four up by the interval, Postecoglou’s men put in a masterclass, with David Turnbull stealing a fair portion of the limelight with a stunning hat-trick turn. Liel Abada chipped in with a brace, and Odsonne Edouard rounded out the sextet of strikes.
Of course, the big caveat here is that St. Mirren were reduced to ten men from the 19th minute onwards, but even taking that into account, this was an uncommonly devastating effort from the Bhoys.
Over the course of the 90 minutes they completed 560 out of an attempted 620 passes - an accuracy rate in excess of 90%. They also wracked up 31 shots on goal, with 10 of those on target, and despite having just shy of 68% possession, the Hoops actually lost the ball seven times fewer than the Buddies.
In terms of raw stats, the most obvious comparison to make this season was Celtic’s pulsating 3-2 win over Hearts in the Scottish League Cup a couple of weeks ago.
In that game, the Bhoys actually had more shots on goal, more possession, made 127 passes more, and registered a higher xG. By all metrics of common sense, they should have won that game by a lot more than a single goal.
The main reason that they didn’t was an occasional reversion back to some of the defensive sloppiness that marred their bid for silverware last term. Hearts only had two shots on target, and yet they managed to hit the back of the net with both of them.
Against St. Mirren, there were no such problems. Whereas Hearts had an xG of 1.19 in the cup, the Buddies registered an xG of just 0.1.
Celtic stifled and suffocated their visitors, and not once did they take their foot off the pedal as they motored on towards the victory.
It may seem like a fairly insignificant point in the grand scheme of things - after all, what difference would it have made if the score was 6-1 instead of 6-0? It’s still three points in the bag at the end of the day.
But the key trait that Celtic were lacking last season, the Achilles’ heel in their psyche, was a lack of ruthlessness. In the latter stages of Neil Lennon’s tenure, the cocksure swagger that fuelled their romp to nine consecutive league titles dissipated, and without it, the Hoops wilted.
Now, however, they’re getting it back, and it’s the little details, like only giving St. Mirren the chance to score 1/10th of goal on Saturday, that is helping them to reestablish their air of omnipotence.
Week by week, Postecoglou’s side are looking more and more infallible. Saturday’s rout was yet another example of just how far they have come, and a warning sign of how far they might yet go.