One of the noteworthy transfer deals to happen recently in the Scottish Premiership was Celtic signing Canadian right-back Alistair Johnston from CF Montreal on a permanent deal. The 24-year-old joins the Bhoys from the MLS side on a five-year contract for a reported fee of £3 million. Despite being a young player, he featured regularly in the MLS and for his country while developing into a top-quality player. Since moving to Celtic last December, it hasn’t taken the full-back long to get used to his new club. He has already made six appearances and looks like a solid addition to the squad. Johnston also represented his country, Canada, at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar and played in all three games. Below, we look at some stats that show why Celtic have brought in the promising Canadian right-back.
Overview of recent performances
Alistair Johnston was a regular starter for CF Montreal in the MLS. In the 2022 season, he made 35 appearances, scoring four goals and providing four assists. The above viz shows the percentile rank of the player in comparison to other right-backs from MLS 2022. It can be observed that Johnston ranks highly in the possession department in metrics like passes per 90, received passes per 90, and accurate passes. Across attack and defence, he has a decent rank for indicators like goal contribution, aerial duels won, positioning, and defensive duels won.
Since joining Celtic, Johnston has established himself in the starting lineup. He has played in all six matches since joining and has given some combative performances that have helped his team keep four clean sheets. The above pizza chart shows that Alistair has been excellent in the possession department for Celtic and ranks at the top for almost every parameter. A couple of other areas where he has excelled include winning defensive duels and getting touches in the opposition’s penalty area.
Strong positional play and defensive traits
The above viz illustrates the player’s heat map from the previous MLS season. It can be observed that the right back shows high intensity throughout the entire right flank. He covers a lot of ground in both halves and is constantly active on the right side. Alistair Johnstone averages 42.73 passes per match with 83.1% accuracy, along with 33.96 received passes. Of these passes, 5.4 are to the final third (69.4% accuracy) and 3.2 are to the penalty area (46.4).
Although a right-back by profession, Alistair Johnston has the versatility to slot into a variety of roles across the backline and in midfield. The viz above shows the player’s average defensive territory from MLS 2022. Johnston’s average position was well inside his own half. He commits a lot of defensive actions in his own half and makes interceptions and tactical fouls near the defensive and middle thirds.
It can be observed that he has given up a few fouls and has averaged 1.37 fouls in the 2022 season. Johnston has an average of 14.18 duels per 90 and a 54.1% win rate. He averages 3.7 interceptions per match and 7.23 recoveries per game, with 26.5% of them occurring in the opposing half.
Contributions in attack
Another area where the right-back can contribute is in his ability to score goals. The 24-year-old found the back of the net four times for CF Montreal last season. He will be eager to provide similar returns for his new club Celtic. The player averages 0.5 shots per 90 minutes and has an accuracy rate of 37.5%. The xG map above shows that Johnston has taken most of his shots from inside the penalty box and also scored all four goals from inside the box. He can get into some crucial goal-scoring positions at times and find the back of the net.
The Canadian international’s ability to pass the ball has contributed well to his four assists with CF Montreal last term. The above viz shows the shot assists delivered by the right-back with a total xA value of 3.45. It can be observed that most of the passes are directed into the penalty box. One of his assists has come from a corner delivery, while the others have come from a few crosses that the player has delivered towards the opposition penalty box. Last season, he averaged 0.81 shot assists per 90 and created seven big chances.
Playing on the right side, Johnston also performs many winger actions, which include dribbling and crossing. He attempts most of his dribbles in wide positions in the final third as he tries to breach the opponent’s penalty area. He also puts lots of crosses into the box from the right flank. Alistair averages 1.5 dribbles per match with a 64% success rate and delivers 3.86 crosses with a 36.8% success rate.
Alistair Johnston’s inclusion in Celtic’s squad has added more depth and quality to the backline. He is a versatile right-back who is reliable and composed in defence but can also pose a significant threat going forward. Furthermore, he contributes with his creative and accurate passing. The 24-year-old will have an important role to play in Celtic’s defensive department for the rest of the season with the club trying to win back-to-back Scottish Premiership titles.
Visuals via TFA data viz engine