Scottish Premiership: What the stats say about start to the season

We may only have played four rounds of the Scottish Premiership, but we have already had big teams struggling, one manager sacked, and others punching above their weight.

BBC Scotland has pored over data provided by Opta to glean some insight into the first little chunk of the league season.

It is still very early days, but here is what the numbers are telling us so far.

O'Riley starring for Celtic

It's been far from vintage Celtic so far this season, but a lot of their best stuff has come through Matt O'Riley.

The midfielder is near the top of most of the attacking statistics in the league, boasting the joint most goal involvements, with two goals and two assists so far.

His early performances indicate he is being asked to get in the box more, having had the most shots on target of any other player (eight), and 20 touches in the opposition box, more than any of his team-mates.

Reports suggest Celtic are close to tying O'Riley down on a new long-term deal, and you can see why the champions are so keen to keep him after his early season showings.

Rangers strikers struggle

The toils of new Rangers forward signings Danilo, Sam Lammers, and Cyriel Dessers have been well-documented. And the numbers provide no hiding place.

No players have had more shots than Danilo and Lammers (13) in the Premiership but both only have one league goal, against Livingston, while fewer than half of the shots they have taken have been on target.

Meanwhile, only Aberdeen forward Luis 'Duk' Lopes has had more touches in the opposition's box without scoring than Dessers.

Rangers as a team rank ninth for chances converted, and only 25 of their 81 shots have been on target.

Full-backs James Tavernier and Borna Barisic are still the side's chief chance creators too, as the midfield and attack struggles for form.

Clinical Motherwell & St Mirren

Motherwell's Stuart Kettlewell and St Mirren counterpart Stephen Robinson are probably the only two managers who will feel they are getting the most from their squad right now.

Both sides are clearly well coached and organised, but the standout point from both is just how lethal they have been so far in front of goal.

St Mirren are the joint top scorers, alongside Celtic, with eight goals. Their chance conversion rate of 18% is the highest of any side.

The fact they have scored eight times with an expected goals (xG) rating of 5.4 underlines just how clinical they have been. In other words, they have found the net more times than you would expect based on the quality of the chances they've created.

Motherwell have also overperformed their xG rating of 4.6 in netting six times, while their conversion rate is the third best in the division. The obvious question is whether that level of output is sustainable for both sides over a longer period. We'll soon find out.

Aberdeen lacking identity

Anyone watching Aberdeen this season would probably tell you they are struggling to find rhythm as Barry Robson tries to assimilate 10 brand new faces into his squad while juggling domestic and European football.

Robson regularly says he likes his team to have energy, speed, and he wants them to press the opposition. While last season's resurgence was based on solidity at the back.

There is little evidence of either in the four league games so far. Opta have a metric called 'High Turnovers' , which is when a team wins the ball within 40m of the opposition's goal. Only Livingston have done that fewer times than Aberdeen.

Aberdeen stats graphic
Aberdeen stats graphic

Another metric, called Passes per Defensive Action (PPDA), measures the intensity of a team's defending. In essence, how many passes do they allow the other team before they make attempt to make a tackle or interception. Aberdeen's rating of 11.3 puts them squarely in mid table.

As well as struggling to press, the Dons are also 10th for shots on target faced, and for the quality of chances created against them. Not a recipe for solidity.

Up the other end, Aberdeen have had just 47% of the ball, and managed just seven shots on target in four matches, the lowest of any side.

All in all, there is plenty to improve on, with the caveats being one of their four games was against Celtic - and that the season is very young.

Hearts' possession obsession

Hearts haven't scored since the two they got at St Johnstone on the opening day. An alarming statistic in itself.

Robbie Neilson was sacked as results turned last season, with the chief complaint among Hearts fans that the side played from side to side far too much, with little goal threat.

Unfortunately for them, that has not changed yet this term under the coaching duo of Steven Naismith and Frankie McAvoy.

Hearts have had a staggering 66% of the ball in their opening four matches, a figure only bettered by Celtic. Their passing accuracy is behind only the Old Firm, and yet they are the joint lowest scorers in the Premiership.

No player has had more touches in the opponent's penalty box than Lawrence Shankland (31), and he ranks highly among his peers for shots and shots on target, but only has one league goal so far.

Hearts' chance conversion rate is by far the worst of any team (4%), but more worryingly they are rated seventh on the quality of chances created.

It's early days but Naismith, now back in charge on his own, needs to get Hearts' attack firing.

Encouragement for Montgomery

New Hibernian boss Nick Montgomery will look to immediately address the glaring issues with his team's defence.

Hibs have conceded the most goals (eight), so it is no surprise they have also committed the most errors directly leading to a goal (three).

However, if he's a glass half full kind of man then he should look to what's going on up the other end, because Adam le Fondre and Christian Doidge have been delivering the goods.

Le Fondre is the league's joint-top scorer with three goals, with Doidge also grabbing two plus two assists. The pair proved decisive against Aberdeen to get Hibs their first league win, and have been key to the team boasting the second-best chance conversion rate in the league.

Stats graphic show Christian Doidge has four goal involvements for Hibernian this season
Stats graphic show Christian Doidge has four goal involvements for Hibernian this season

In fact, Hibs have overperformed their xG rating significantly. The Leith side have created roughly the same number of quality chances as Hearts and Aberdeen, but have netted seven times.

Hearts have managed just two goals, and Aberdeen three.

With Martin Boyle and Elie Youan stretching teams out wide, and Dylan Vente also still getting up to speed, there is plenty for Montgomery to work with in attack.