Heart of Midlothian 1-4 Celtic: The numbers behind ‘top class’ Matt O’Riley’s ‘outstanding’ start to the season

23 October 2023 0 By Total Football News

“Top class. Outstanding. Superb. Invaluable.”

The unofficial book of football superlatives was out for Matt O’Riley at Tynecastle on Sunday.

The Celtic midfielder’s sublime early volley, which opened the scoring in a comfortable 4-1 win over Heart of Midlothian, and all-round showing in Edinburgh typified his stellar start to the season.

The Denmark youth international was awarded with the league’s player of the month award for September earlier in the week. On this evidence, he may well be in line to scoop the individual end-of-season prizes.

Former Celtic striker Chris Sutton hailed O’Riley as “the outstanding player” in the country, but do the numbers back this up?

Here, BBC Scotland has a look.

How O’Riley’s met Rodgers’ demands

O’Riley hasn’t risen from the shadows. Under Ange Postecoglou, the Fulham youth product who was signed from MK Dons in January 2022, was still a key player.

Eight goals and 16 assists from midfield in 72 Celtic games prior to the start of this season highlight that, but Brendan Rodgers demanded more in the summer.

“I said to him he needed to up his goals,” Rodgers told BBC Scotland post-match at Tynecastle.

O’Riley has responded with six in 12 matches this term, the most recent of which was a stunning first-time volley past Zander Clark to set Celtic on their way to restoring their seven-point lead at the Premiership summit.

He’s currently the league’s leading scorer, but how’s he done it? Simply by “getting in the box more,” O’Riley told Sky Sports.

The fact no player bettered his six touches in the opposition box on Sunday only exemplifies that.

“He’s been superb,” captain Callum McGregor said. “He came back in the summer in incredible condition. He deserves his vein of form. He’s so important for the team. A top player.”

‘You could sit and watch him all day’

Matt O'Riley Premiership stats

Increased goalscoring hasn’t diluted chance creation.

O’Riley has two Premiership assists to his name this term, one off team-mate McGregor and Kilmarnock winger Danny Armstrong at the top of the chart.

The 25 chances he has created is a league high, though, which averages out to 2.78 per 90 minutes.

Three of those came in Gorgie – no player managed more – while his 22 passes in the final third were also unbeaten.

However, his work out of possession also caught the eye, making two tackles and winning possession 11 times in a phenomenal all-round display from the midfielder, whose ceiling continues to rise at the age of just 22.

“He’s become very valuable,” former Celtic midfielder Stiliyan Petrov said on Sky Sports. “His overall game is maturing. He sees the game differently, he plays the ball quicker. This is what makes you stand out from other midfielders.”

Former Rangers striker Kris Boyd added: “He’s added goals. Don’t underestimate how hard that finish was. You could sit and watch him all day. He glides across the pitch. He’s a top-class player.”