Celtic’s central-defensive partnership of Cameron Carter-Vickers and Carl Starfelt has been instrumental for the Premiership leaders this season. The pairing has helped Celtic maintain the best defensive record in the league. The defense has been the bedrock of the Celtic side this season, and the Hoops would not be in the position they are currently in if not for how well the Celtic back-four has played this season.
The Celts have only conceded 18 goals in the 30 games they have played this season. Despite a slow start to the season, Celtic found the perfect defensive partnership to solve their defensive woes and have not looked back since. They have the lowest number of shots against them in the league and also have an accumulated xG of only 17.68 against them.
While not the tallest defender, Carter-Vickers nonetheless possesses brilliant strength. He also possesses brilliant pace, and his reading of the game is exceptional as well. His defensive stats this season have been impressive, with most of the metrics surpassing the league median value. It can be seen that he has attempted a lower number of defensive actions per 90 minutes, which is because Celtic have been able to win the ball in the opposition’s half more. The defender has completed 86.82% of the 8.23 defensive action he has attempted, which is very impressive. His most noteworthy stats are his defensive duel wins, aerial duel wins, loose ball duels wins, and average recoveries per match. On an average, he has completed 14.51 recoveries per 90 minutes.
The above visual indicates the areas of the pitch where he is most engaged in. In Postecoglou’s 4-3-3 and 4-1-4-1 system, Carter-Vickers is usually deployed as a right centre-back, who is allowed to drive the ball forward whenever the opportunity arrives. His awareness allows him to judge whether to follow the opposition player or to plug any gap in his side’s defense. Most of his duels in his penalty area are aerial duels, which indicates that he is a very commanding defender when it comes to set-piece situations, and he has also won several duels higher up the pitch.
Starfelt might have had a difficult start to his Celtic career, but since the Hoops signed Cameron Carter-Vickers, the duo has formed a solid defensive partnership. In matches that Starfelt has played in this season, the Celtic defense has kept 20 clean sheets. That is in 40 appearances for the Bhoys, so in half the games that the 26-year-old has played for Celtic, the Hoops haven’t conceded a goal. Starfelt has attempted 10.10 defensive actions per 90 minutes and has completed 81.68% of these actions. He lies in the 96th percentile for the number of recoveries he has completed per 90 minutes.
Starfelt features on the left of the two centre-back and has done well to win the ball back for his team from various duels on the left side of the pitch. Most of his duels on the left side are 50-50 and aerial duels. He has won 60% of these duels, and he successfully recovers possession of the ball. Starfelt is also a huge presence in the opposition’s penalty area from set-piece situations as he has won several aerial duels in the box.
Celtic did have a shaky start to the season, as they failed to keep clean sheets in the away games and conceded goals very easily. But they changed that and now are leading the Scottish Premiership table with a three-point lead over second-placed Rangers. Whilst Starfelt looks set to be at Celtic for a while yet, the same might not be true of Carter-Vickers, whose loan deal expires at the end of the season. It would be frustrating for Celtic if the defensive partnership only lasted for one season, as so far, it has been one of the best defensive partnerships that Celtic have had at the club.