How Matt O’Riley became indispensable to this Celtic side

Matt O’Riley has been arguably the most consistent player for Celtic so far this season. It’s easy to stand out when the team isn’t looking at its best but yesterday when, to a man, the team were sensational O’Riley’s individual display still stood out.

He is clearly relishing playing under a top level coach in Brendan Rodgers and is repaying the former Liverpool manager’s faith and trust in him in the early stages, but just how important to Celtic is the Danish Under-21 cap?


Hit the ground running

When Matt O’Riley joined Celtic, the Hoops were well and truly in a title race with Ange Postecoglou’s Celtic rebuild just starting to become the force that it eventually grew to be. You could argue that the acquisitions of Matt O’Riley, Reo Hatate and Daizen Maeda in January of 2022 were the final pieces of the puzzle to complete the free-flowing team that Postecoglou was trying to build at Celtic.

In a busy period of the season where getting results week in week out was a must, O’Riley grabbed each game by the scruff of the neck. A baptism of fire at Tynecastle followed up by the resounding 3-0 victory over Rangers at Celtic Park meant the Hoops’ support took an immediate shine to the 22-year-old.

Showing up in the big games

Whilst last season’s Champions League campaign may not have gone the way some fans may have wanted, O’Riley was one of the standout players over the course of the six fixtures.

Inheriting a heightened importance and responsibility on his shoulders due to Callum McGregor’s absence, O’Riley stepped up, even being awarded UEFA’s Champions League player of the match in a 1-1 draw at home to Shakhtar Donetsk. He also notched up two assists in the first derby of the season, a 4-0 Celtic home win.

Versatility and evident development

In this same time period, O’Riley was showing different elements to his game as well as developing at a rapid rate. He was becoming a more well-rounded midfielder and the defensive elements of his game were coming on leaps and bounds.

In the aforementioned player of the match performance against Shakhtar Donetsk, he was playing as a defensive midfielder rather than his usual, more advanced role. He flourished when deputising in a more defensive role for a prolonged period of time, and the valuable development he had seen in that period has served him well as a battler in this current Celtic side.

Backing of the manager

If O’Riley’s importance to the team wasn’t already known, then Brendan Rodgers made it a fact. O’Riley has been one of the star performers under Rodgers, consistently performing well even when the team isn’t at its best.

Inevitably, good performances are going to attract interest. Celtic received previous interest from the Premier League and the Bundesliga in the Dane’s services and most recently English Championship clubs Southampton and Leeds United were sniffing around. When questioned on this, Rodgers stated that: “Matt is definitely a player I want to have here and be part of what I’m doing. I’ve been really impressed by him over the course of the short time I’ve been here so far.”

With the manager fully behind him and his game developing at a rapid rate, a call-up to the Danish national team could definitely be on the horizon.


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