Is Ryan Christie Good Enough for Celtic?
Written by: Matt Rhein @TheBackPassRule
Going into the 2018/19 season, Ryan Christie is heading into a pivotal section of his professional football career. The 23 year old midfielder has only appeared for Celtic 13 times in 567 minutes of play. Most of his time under his contract at Celtic has been spent about 2 hours north of Glasgow. Christie has spent a majority of the past year and a half playing for Aberdeen on loan. He has been an integral part of the Dons attack the past two seasons, scoring 10 goals and assisting 9 times in league play in his time at Pittodrie.
Ryan Christie is entering the final season of his Celtic contract. With the Parkhead club boasting a deep midfield, it could be tough for the young Scot to stand-out this season. Despite promising play in his time on loan at Aberdeen and his play at Inverness Caley Thistle before his move to Celtic, the question begs: Is Ryan Christie good enough for Celtic? As Celtic ponders that question, numerous suitors, including Aberdeen, are lining up for Christie if Celtic decides he is surplus to their requirements.
Christie was one of the most important creative players for an Aberdeen club that finished second in the table for the fourth straight season. The midfielder scored 4 goals and 6 assists in SPFL play last season. His underlying statistics suggest he was perhaps a bit unlucky to not have more goals, with an xG of 6.54 (0.23 per 90) and 7.68 (0.28 per 90). He also had good playmaking underlying statistics, with an xA total of 7.68 (0.28 per 90). Compared to the rest of the league, he was 14th in xG total, 32nd in xG per 90, 4th in xA total, and 5th in xA per 90. Christie also was 6th in the league in Key Passes completed (53) and 12th in the league in Key Passes per 90(1.9). These stats clearly reflect an attacking midfielder that can be effective in the SPFL.
Yet many Celtic supporters have, rightly or wrongly, higher standards for their team than "effective SPFL player". Many seem to turn their nose up, and to be fair this is partly due to seeing this play out to be true in past examples, and believe players who do well at other SPFL clubs are not up to the standards at Celtic. To put it bluntly, impressing at Aberdeen may not impress some sections of the Celtic support.
Furthermore, the Celtic midfield has had plenty of depth and quality the past few seasons. This would make it tough for a younger player such as Christie to break through and get consistent playing time in the Celtic line-up. Yet, there might be some changes to the Celtic midfield this upcoming season that might change that.
Patrick Roberts has gone back to Manchester City and seems destined to remain in England somewhere. Stuart Armstrong is in the same last year of his contract purgatory he was last season and has been linked with a transfer away from Celtic Park. Scott Sinclair regressed a bit in 2017/18 compared to his 2016/17 campaign, perhaps due to getting past his "peak years" for his position.
James Forrest had the best season of his career last season for Celtic, but he too is starting to approach the descent of his "peak age" years for a winger. Tom Rogic and Callum McGregor had break out seasons for Celtic last season and are still at the age that they can improve as a footballer. These two could provide competition for playing time for Christie, but with other areas of the Celtic midfield either moving on or getting older, the chance is there for Ryan Christie to form the backbone of the Celtic midfield with Rogic and McGregor. How does Chrisitie's statistical output compare to his Celtic peers though?
Above we see both Christie and the various attacking midfielder's for Celtic stats for both goals and expected goals per 90 minutes in the SPFL. In terms of goal scoring, only Patrick Roberts, who did not score at all in the league last season, averaged less goals per 90 minutes than Ryan Christie. However, when we look at the xG numbers we see that perhaps Christie was unlucky, averaging 0.23 xG per 90, which was tied with James Forrest and only Scott Sinclair and Tom Rogic averaging a higher xG per 90 last season.
If we look at both Ryan Christie and the Celtic midfield's assists per 90 minutes from last season, we see that Christie's numbers are similar to many of the mainstays of the Celtic team last season. Of course, we know that assists are not the best way to measure a player's contributions, so we can also look at their expected assists per 90 numbers as well. Here again Christie favorably compares to Celtic mainstays. His 0.28 xA per 90 minutes was 3rd highest among these players, with only Stuart Armstrong and Patrick Roberts averaging a higher number.
We see that Christie had similar underlying statistics as many of his Celtic teammates last season. If he were to get consistent playing time with Celtic, we might expect his traditional stats such as goals and assists to improve as well. No offense to Adam Rooney and Stevie May, but Celtic's strike force is far more talented than the Aberdeen group of strikers. Three Celtic strikers finished last season among the top 20 in xG per 90 in the SPFL (Griffiths 0.71, Edouard 0.58, and Dembele 0.52), while Aberdeen only had one (Rooney 0.42). The same three Celtic strikers were 1st (Edouard 0.76), 2nd (Griffiths 0.68), and 6th (0.50) in Non-Penalty Goals per 90 minutes in the SPFL, while Rooney again was the only Aberdeen player on that list at 16th (0.34). With the stats showing Ryan Christie is a good playmaker and these deadly strikers in the Celtic line-up, we could see Christie's traditional stats improve if he were to get an extended period of playing time on the pitch.
The last two seasons ended of course famously with double trebles for Celtic. A huge factor in their ability to achieve these historic feats was the squad depth the club had. In both seasons, the club also competed in the Champions League group stages after navigating the qualifying rounds. All of these European matches added to three domestic competitions for Celtic results in a loooooong season.
With the high number of matches Celtic will be competing in, there is more than ample opportunity for Ryan Christie to get playing time this season. We have shown how he statistically compared to his Celtic peers. He is 23 years old, meaning he is nearing his prime years with time still to grow and improve as a player. While they do not need to make a decision right this moment on his contract, given his output last season, Ryan Christie should be given a chance in the Celtic squad this season.
This article was written with the aid of StrataData, which is property of Stratagem Technologies. StrataData powers the StrataBet Sports Trading Platform, in addition to StrataBet Premium Recommendations.