Saturday, November 18, 2017
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Football News & Opinions

The Celtic Invincibles Stats & Impact on Scotland

Treble Winners Badge (via Celticfc.net)And some people thought that Brendan Rodgers’ honeymoon period at Celtic wouldn’t last. Well, to paraphrase a certain muppet-looking, muppet-brained politician, they’re not laughing now. But this isn’t Brexit, thank goodness. This is far more important than that – this is Scottish football.

 

 

In truth, this season turned out to be about the only show in town, Celtic FC. Not Aberdeen’s cameo as the best of the rest, nor Rangers’ abject ordinariness, not even the acres of space within the stands at many grounds as TV saturation continues to destroy attendances.

 

Celtic were so far ahead of the other sides it was embarrassing. Even a tough Champions League campaign – during the group stages they drew both games against Manchester City – failed to dent Rodgers’ side’s domestic superiority, and whatever their manager’s secret, it certainly worked. A couple of astute signings (step forward Moussa Dembélé and Scott Sinclair) helped deliver a domestic treble, unbeaten league campaign, all achieved with a blend of football that was pleasing on the eye.

 

It may be only fifteen years since Martin O’Neill’s all-conquering Celtic side claimed a clean sweep, but trebles are still relatively rare, and unbeaten league campaigns unheard of in the modern era.

Over the season past, Celtic managed to break all manner of records:

 

The Invincibles

The first Scottish domestic campaign without a single defeat for more than a century. Rangers secured this back in 1899, but back then there were only 18 games in the season, compared with 38 nowadays. Celtic’s league season included 34 wins and 4 draws, and with the two cup runs this amounted to a whopping 47 games without tasting a single loss. Even in a league of dubious quality, this is a remarkable achievement, one Rodgers insists will not happen again in his lifetime if ever.

 

Number of points

Celtic’s total of 106 points is the highest ever in the Scottish leagues, beating their own record by 3 points (set in 2002).

 

Number of victories

34 league wins surpassed the 33 wins in 2002. Rangers had also jointly held the 33 game win record in both the 92/93 and 93/94 seasons, albeit they had 44 games in which to do it. As said, the modern day season now only stretches to 38 games.

 

Goals scored

106, the highest in the Premier League era. Which is particularly impressive when you consider it beats any total plundered over a season during the Martin O’Neill era, when the club boasted the striking talent of Henrik Larsson, John Hartson and Chris Sutton.

 

Margin of Victory

A whopping 30 points ahead of nearest ‘challengers’ Aberdeen. This is actually only one point shy of the European record, set by Paris St Germain last year.

 

Of course, it must be acknowledged that Celtic’s monopoly of the silverware was achieved in a season in which bitter rivals Rangers’ form was at best moderate, at worst utterly atrocious. While Rodgers’ men ran amok, Rangers parted acrimoniously with manager Mark Warburton. Though in truth few at Ibrox are bemoaning the loss of the thin-skinned Englishman, whose lack of a plan B during games which weren’t going right (of which there were many) was laid bare in the crudest fashion.

 

 

And of course the club’s big hope Joey Barton demonstrated his inability to cope with the pressure in Glasgow by unleashing his unsavoury, combustible nature. Talk about abject failure.

 

More generally, Rangers’ squad was exposed as weak, vulnerable and far short of quality. Two 5-1 drubbings at Celtic’s hands testify to that.

 

But all that wasn’t Celtic’s fault, of course. Nor should it detract from Rodgers’ achievements, although it’s difficult to envisage how this can be matched next season, let alone bettered. Perhaps qualification from the group stages of the Champions League would go some way to delivering on that front. We shall see.

 

Meanwhile, the Scotland line-up for last weekend’s World Cup showdown against England featured no fewer than 5 Celtic players, a timely reflection of the club’s lofty status. We needn’t dwell on the impact Leith Griffiths made here, as the striker’s sublime free-kicks speak for themselves. But, what of the others? Well, Kieran Tierney performed reasonably well to contain Harry Kane (until the 93rd minute), whilst Scott Brown was booked in the third minute for a senseless late tackle thereby blunting his aggression in midfield for the next 88 minutes.

 

 

Stuart Armstrong’s loose pass gifted England possession which enabled them to pinch a draw when a hoof into row z would have killed the game off. And Craig Gordon in goal was a jittery presence throughout the game, and a degree of fault with both Auld Enemy goals could be attributed to the normally secure custodian (Kane latched on to a slow, floated cross which drifted into the heart of Gordon’s 6-yard box, leaving the Spurs forward with a criminally easy goal).

 

 

So it just goes to show – dominance in club football doesn’t necessarily translate to the national stage. Not, I guess, that Brendan Rodgers will be too worried about that.

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