Celtic manager Neil Lennon jokes he's been giving Olivier Ntcham stick

By David Walton

January 23, 2020

Celtic boss Neil Lennon has joked that he’s been giving Olivier Ntcham some stick after last night’s 3-1 win at Rugby Park.

There was nothing wrong with the midfielder’s performance overall. He spread the ball around well and played some killer passes that should’ve resulted in us scoring more goals. One of those was a beautiful through ball to Odsonne Edouard that the striker failed to bury when one-v-one.

However, one of the frustrating aspects of his game was his shooting on the night. When he got into key areas and got some shots away, they were often off-target. That was despite him often not being under pressure when pulling the trigger.

Celtic’s Olivier Ntcham celebrates (Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

Lennon has joked on Celtic TV about his shooting on the night, but singled out the midfield for praise – Ntcham included.

“I’ve been giving Ntcham a bit of stick. I think his shooting is nearly as good as mine was! The midfield is functioning well. Him, Brown, McGregor. The midfield is very strong and very talented.

“Mikey Johnston had a great individual chance. McGregor had a chance first half. So we’re creating good chances, and the overall balance of the team, the attitude and quality of their play was superb.”

Ntcham needs to be doing better from shooting positions

Lennon is clearly finding the funny side considering we won the game. You can’t blame him either – it was a big result on the night. Celtic fully deserved the win, and Ntcham was central to it with his control from the engine room.

However, more than one occasion did he see himself with space around 20 yards out. It’s not as if he was having potshots from 30-40 yards that were flying off-target – these were good areas.

Usually, when Ntcham has space from 20 yards, you expect the net to ripple. But one of the worrying aspects was that Kilmarnock’s Jan Koperivec went largely untroubled. Too many weren’t even finding the target.

Celtic’s Ntcham (Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)

But it’s also being picky. He had a fine performance in Kilmarnock last night and showed exactly what he’s capable of when he’s in the mood. You wouldn’t have known it was a plastic surface with how slick he was at times either.

Moving forward, Ntcham has fully made his mark in that midfield trio. When playing with a 3-5-2 there’s a place for him in the team. You question whether that’s the case with the old 4-2-3-1. So long as Lennon sticks with the midfield three, Ntcham will likely always be in there.

However, with Ismaila Soro now having passed his medical, everyone in the midfield will have to step it up to stay in the side.