Kris Boyd and Andy Walker have named their Scottish Premiership XI at the halfway stage of the 2022/23 season but do you agree?
It has, as always, been an eventful and unpredictable start to the campaign, with Celtic nine points clear of Rangers at the top, while Aberdeen, St Mirren, St Johnstone, Livingston and Hibs are all within touching distance of third place Hearts.
Players from almost every one of those sides feature across either Boyd or Walker’s teams, while representatives from those battling at the other end of the table such as Kilmarnock, Motherwell, Dundee United and bottom-side Ross County miss out.
Seven Celtic players have made Boyd’s team, with just one Rangers player making the cut, while Walker has spread his selections over six clubs.
The pair agreed on just five players, although both opted for a 4-3-3 formation. Pick your own XI below and see how it compares with the two teams.
Celtic players dominate Boyd’s XI
Boyd said: “Joe Hart has been so consistent over a lengthy period of time – especially this season – and has shown how important that position is. Whenever he has been called upon, he has made saves at key moments and with the most clean sheets in the league takes his place in goal for my team.
“Craig Gordon, who we all wish the best to in his recovery from a horrible injury, was pushing Hart and Kelle Roos has had a good season too but I can’t ignore the number of goals Aberdeen have conceded.
“In defence, I can’t ignore the numbers James Tavernier produces from right-back. He’s got six goals and five assists this season and while we can’t forget some moments when he has looked uncomfortable, what he brings to the team going forward should not be overlooked. He is consistently an attacking threat and deserves his place. Nicky Devlin was unfortunate to miss out, as were Josip Juranovic and Anthony Ralston. Consistency, goals and assists is why Tavernier beat them to that spot.
“Jack Fitzwater defends his box well, is dominant in that Livingston defence and it is not a coincidence they get results when he plays. He was on the wrong end of that heavy defeat to Hibernian but I think he has another level in him. Alongside him Cameron Carter-Vickers just oozes class and I can fully understand why Celtic paid that large sum of money to sign him from Tottenham. He is key player in that Celtic side, starts phases of play and looks like a real leader in different ways, not just vocally. St Johnstone’s Alex Mitchell and Andy Considine were also close, as were Ayo Obileye and Ryan Porteous at centre-back.
“Making up the defence is another Celtic player in Greg Taylor who has taken his game to new levels this season. He finds himself in advanced areas and whether it is defending or going forward, he has set the level and had a great campaign so far. It takes a lot to win over fans who virtually wrote you off but he’s done that in such a short spell of time. He also used to clean my boots, so I had to pick him!
“Celtic’s midfield three complement each other so well and control the game. Callum McGregor had a spell out with injury but he is an unbelievable player. He controls the tempo of games, knows when to slow things down and when the team need to drive on – all of which you saw in that win over Aberdeen when he got the late winner. He is quality works so well alongside the energy levels of Reo Hatate. He has all the ability and is now adding goals to his game. He is versatile and has embraced Scottish football since moving here from the J-League. Matt O’Riley has the most assists in the league and when you watch him play, you can just see how talented he is. There’s no doubt he’ll continue to get better and bring in millions for Celtic going forward.
“It won’t be a surprise I’ve gone for three real goalscorers up top. You can’t ignore what Antonio Colak has done at Rangers and is one of a few that has come out with pass marks so far this season at Ibrox. If you create opportunities he’s shown he can get into the right position and score goals.
“Alongside him you’ve got Kyogo Furuhashi who has been exceptional again this season. He’s perhaps yet to hit the heights of last season but is a real nuisance for defenders and puts 100 per cent in every time. That work rate and with the number of chances Celtic create, it’s no surprise he’s already the top goalscorer this season.
“Finally, I’ve picked a man I fully expect to become the first Hearts player to score 20 goals in a season since John Robertson over 30 years ago. Lawrence Shankland already has 13 league goals and has brought a focal point to Hearts’ team. His finishing has been excellent in the first-half of this season and I fully expect that to continue.
“There is competition across the league for every position. Jota began this season on fire but he’s not been starting as regularly of late, while Liel Abada and Daniel Armstrong were also pushing for a place, with Nicky Clark having a good season so far too so could count himself unlucky.”
Walker picks a mix of youth and experience
“Being a top-class goalkeeper is probably the most unforgiving position on the pitch. With Allan McGregor now retired from the international scene and Craig Gordon suffering a horrendous leg break, I wonder if Stevie Clarke will be tempted to ask David Marshall if he fancies coming out of retirement to play for his country again? In my view, he’s still good enough for the international stage and with Hibs struggling for consistency, he brings some much-needed authority and a presence between the sticks. Without him, Hibs would be worse off.
“Josip Juranovic had an outstanding World Cup and it’s no surprise he’s on the radar of much richer clubs than Celtic. Defensively, the Croatian is very reliable but given the role of the full-back in today’s game, Juranovic is a major threat going forward. The quality of Scottish Premiership players in general is often overlooked elsewhere but it’s pretty obvious Juranovic could play for any of the top teams in Europe and flourish in that company.
“Calum McGregor is the captain of Celtic but even he would accept that no one leads this Celtic defence better than Cameron Carter-Vickers who also made his debut at the recent World Cup in Qatar. Dominant in the air, the American enjoys a good understanding with Carl Starfelt and Celtic missed him when he was out for a few games last month. His consistent high level of performance sets him apart from the rest.
“I think it’s a good decision from Ryan Porteous to look elsewhere for the next step in his career. He’s been involved in too many daft incidents with various opponents in the Scottish Premiership and it will help him develop as a player if he were to move down south. Admittedly, a lot of unwanted attention drawn to him has been self-inflicted but on a positive note, he has good defensive qualities and an excellent range of passing that he should be looking to develop.
“Like so many players under Ange Postecolgou, Greg Taylor has improved his game and while quietly effective as a defender, it’s his forward runs and disguised killer passes that have caught the eye. Taylor was a good player at Kilmarnock but he’s even better in a Celtic jersey. Previously on Rangers books, it’s in the green and white that Taylor has excelled; a difficult task when replacing fan favourite Kieran Tierney.
“Keanu Baccus is another remarkable success story from the Scottish Premiership following his part in Australia’s path to the round of 16 in Qatar. Having previously come on as a sub in the group games, he started against Argentina for a magical experience competing against the eventual world champions. Now that he’s attracting attention from richer clubs, St Mirren could cash in on a player who has helped take them into the top half of the table against all odds.
“Arguably the most effective midfield player in the Scottish Premiership, Callum McGregor is a major influence on a Celtic team looking to replicate their title-winning form from last season. It was a difficult task to replace the leadership qualities that Scott Brown had but McGregor has relished the challenge of keeping his team as the dominant force in Scottish football.
“Matt O’Riley was a much sought-after player during his time at MK Dons and it didn’t take him long to settle in with his new teammates. Known as a player who can play a penetrating, killer pass, he has given Celtic a new look as an attacking threat from middle to front. It’s true he doesn’t score as often as you would expect but it’s something he can add to his game.
“I have been impressed by Joel Nouble every time I have seen him play this season. From the first game of the campaign against Rangers when he scored a lovely goal, he has flourished in his role as a main striker. Even though Livingston lost against Celtic earlier this season, I haven’t seen any other striker give Carter-Vickers as hard a time as Nouble did. For a man of his stature, he has excellent close control. To take his game to the next level, scoring more regularly would be a massive asset, something I think he’s capable of.
“Meanwhile, what an inspirational signing Kyogo has been for Celtic. Given his non-stop movement off the ball, he’s exactly the type of player to take advantage of the regular service from both left and right when Celtic attack. Always playing with a smile on his face, his energy is infectious. More importantly, he can finish and his record in the year he’s been at Celtic is very impressive. He also doesn’t give his opponent a minute’s rest, constantly closing down from the front and winning back possession for his teammates.
“Completing the team is a player Aberdeen manager Jim Goodwin has already hinted that he might be able to struggle to hold on to, Bojan Miovski. With 11 goals already, he’s the regular scorer fans love to have in their team. Signing him from MTK Budapest in the summer has been a big success and if Aberdeen are serious about winning a trophy or securing third spot in the league, the North Macedonian striker is the type of player who can help deliver those targets.”
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Confirmed Scottish Premiership fixtures live on Sky Sports
Monday January 2: Rangers vs Celtic, kick-off 12.30pm
Sunday January 8: Motherwell vs Hibernian, kick-off 1.30pm
Sunday January 8: Dundee United vs Rangers, kick-off 4pm
Wednesday January 18: Kilmarnock v Rangers, kick-off 8pm
Sunday January 29: Livingston v Hearts, kick-off 1.30pm
Sunday January 29: Dundee United v Celtic, kick-off 4pm
Sunday February 5: St Johnstone v Celtic, kick-off 12pm
Sunday February 19: Motherwell v Hearts, kick-off 12pm