At the start of the Scottish Premiership season, right-back was considered to be one of the areas Celtic were weak in. Since then though, the position has emerged as one of their biggest strengths. One of the biggest reasons for that has been the brilliant form of Anthony Ralston. The 22-year-old’s performances have been absolutely superb this season and he has been one of the standout performers for the Hoops. And while the club have signed Croatian international Josip Juranovic, as well, Ralston is expected to remain a big part of Ange Postecoglou’s plans moving forward.
Postecoglou tries to implement a structure of passing and pressing that maximizes the team. The primary objective of this system is to create space in wide areas by allowing the wide players moving into pockets of space between the lines, to create space for the full-backs to overlap on the outside. This would get a player free in a wide area, where they could deliver an early cross towards the far post. Postecoglou’s teams usually line up in a 4-3-3 with the strong use of fullbacks in attack but has shown to be very fluid and innovative in his formations. An extremely aggressive high press, and passing, attacking football is the norm for a Postecoglou side.
Let’s take a look at what the stats have to say:
The above visual shows us the attacking stats for Ralston and also the median league value for a particular stat. The visual indicates that Ralston’s stats have been better than the median league value and has impressed with the attacking actions he has performed. The young full-back has 0.32 goals per 90, which is high for a defender. He has also attempted approximately five dribbles per 90 minutes and has completed 80% of the dribbles he has attempted. He has performed 12.02 attacking actions per 90 minutes for Celtic.
Ralston has scored two goals for Celtic so far and is always on the attack whenever his team needs him. He has attempted a total of six shots so far and has attempted half of these shots from positions that were inside the penalty area.
The above visual shows us the pass map for Ralston in the matches he has played for Celtic so far in the season. The pass map indicates that Ralston has been heavily involved in the build up play towards the opposition goal. He has completed a lot of passes on the right flank in the opposition half and has a very high expected threat from the passes attempted into the opposition penalty area. The Ange style of play includes building the game from the back which requires their full-backs to drop into their own half to receive the ball and create space for their wide forwards.
Celtic have attempted the most number of crosses in the league and average around 8.05 crosses per game. The style of play that Celtic are following, allows the full-backs to make more overlapping runs which gives them the space to attempt more crosses. Celtic have been highly reliant on crosses into the box to create goalscoring chances.
Ralston has been involved in a high number of duels throughout the pitch. He has mostly been involved in defensive duels in his own half, but has attempted more 50-50 duels in the opposition half. Postecoglou requires a high press from his team to win the ball higher up the pitch and Ralston has done exactly what his manager wants from him. He has pressed higher up the pitch and is successful in recovering possession of the ball for his team.
Ralston has missed just two matches all term and has become one of the new manager’s most important players. He has settled into the role that his manager has asked him to do. Celtic will be looking to more such performances from the promising young full-back throughout the season which will help them secure better results and maintain consistency.