Olivier Ntcham’s chance to defend his position in the side arrived on Sunday. To say he didn’t take it would be a huge understatement.
A couple of weeks on from his last domestic start against Motherwell, this was a vital moment for the Frenchman.
Pipped by Ryan Christie and Callum McGregor in recent weeks, he needed to come up with a big performance. A performance that symbolises the huge £4.5million fee Celtic splashed out on him a year-and-a-half ago to Manchester City.
Yet, once again, there was just something not right with Ntcham at Easter Road. It’s not the first time he’s been dominated in the midfield and looked weaker than normal. It’s not even the first time at Easter Road in truth.
Celtic’s French wonderkid just hasn’t been at the races all season. He was far too slow in moving the ball at Hibs, and failed to play one defence-splitting ball to a team-mate.
Ntcham’s game is all about being box-to-box. He never moves with much pace, but his footwork generally lets him away with that. His ability to dazzle opposition midfielders with his feet can’t be argued, but his passing these days is woeful.
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On too many occasions at Easter Road, Ntcham’s passes were either behind the man or out of play. It ripped apart any momentum Celtic were looking to build in the game. His performance was one of many on the pitch that got Hibs fans excited.
Running out of time to impress
Unfortunately for Ntcham, however, he doesn’t have time to be producing displays like that. Christie is ready to come back into the fold soon, and will instantly take his place.
Whilst Scott Brown didn’t impress on Sunday either, his place should be safe for now. He’ll likely play the next couple of matches against Motherwell and Dundee at Parkhead respectively.
Ntcham, however, is now in real danger of becoming an outcast. After signing a new four-year contract, many felt he would’ve kicked on after some early-season injury woes.
Yet it still looks like he’s struggling to hit his best form.
On his day, Ntcham is unplayable in Scotland. His passing-range is the best in the country, whilst he dictates matches on his own.
The problem is the fact that Celtic fans haven’t seen that from him in a long time.
With the midfield injuries slowly healing up, Ntcham better find some form or he’ll quickly be frozen out.