When the Celtic fan media was allowed to question Ange Postecoglou at the start of the season, my question was about the modernisation of the football operation and the use of analytics and other methods. Ange’s answer gave me a lot of confidence in him.
He has always used those things. He pointed out that as Australia boss he would use them to gain whatever small advantage he could over the opposition, who often had better footballers. I thought of that the other day when Davie Provan was slating him for his decision to play Kyogo out wide at the weekend. We’ll be hearing Provan’s argument a lot.
But there is a way of thinking about this which Ange will examine and which relics like Provan will never understand; the ruthless crunching of the numbers.
Say Kyogo can score you twenty five goals a season played through the middle but only ten played out wide. Well it seems like a no-brainer to play him through the middle, doesn’t it? But what if Giakoumakis can get you twenty goals through the middle? All of a sudden the combination of both players nets you thirty goals instead of playing one player and not the other. Say Kyogo lays on another ten with assists played out wide?
What do you do then? How do you justify dropping the Greek for those extra Kyogo goals? Provan’s nonsense about how the manager needs to play Kyogo as our central striker is old school ignorance. It pays no heed to the way the hard numbers dominate football thinking in the modern era, and it’s the hard numbers which the manager will decide this on.
I personally love watching Kyogo through the middle. His movement and his thinking are way ahead of other players. The idea of playing him out wide seems counter-intuitive, but because of his skill-set he drags defenders towards him and that opens space in the middle where a striker like Giakoumakis will thrive. The cost-benefit analysis seems obvious.
Over the next few weeks a lot of people will try to second guess Ange whatever he does, but if he’s picking both players it isn’t because he feels he needs to try to shoe-horn the options into his team. It’s because he’s got access to the data and the data supports that move. I for one will be very interested to see how it all goes.