Neil Lennon may be tempted this weekend, but the Celtic manager simply must stick with the struggling Hatem Elhamed when we host St Johnstone on Sunday.
There were big question marks when the manager had been keeping Elhamed on the bench against the likes of Motherwell, Hibernian, and Sparta Prague respectively. With Jeremie Frimpong struggling, it seemed the time was right to throw the Israel international back into things.
Lennon’s done just that over the last week. It’s fair to say he hasn’t been rewarded with the right-back poor against County and then defensively under-par against AC Milan.
For the third goal last night he was too easily beaten by Jens Hauge, whilst he was extremely weak for Brahim Diaz’s goal which ended the scoring last night.
Given how well Frimpong performed at the San Siro last night, there could be a real notion from Lennon to drop Elhamed, but that’s the last thing he should be doing at the moment.
We know how good he can be on his day. He was a key part of the Celtic side who went on an incredible run in the first half of last season whilst he also played in all of Celtic’s games before we qualified for the Europa League last-32 last season.
Elhamed has shown his worth in the past
Elhamed starred at venues such as Ibrox and the Stadio Olimpico. Showing terrific awareness and strength in one-v-one defending as well as a pinpoint cross going forward, it was evident we had bought well.
But this season he simply hasn’t had a run of games. The biggest consecutive run of starts Elhamed has had this season is two. That needs to change if we’re to see the best of him again. The worst thing we can do is continue to bench him and allow him to stagnate.
There’s still a place for Frimpong too if Lennon wants to keep him in the team. Jeremie looked a lot more comfortable in an attacking position with the defensive responsibility taken away from him.
Developing that partnership will be key with James Forrest still out. Taking Elhamed back out of the team doesn’t help him come out of his mini-slump.
Had he been performing poorly for several months and playing regularly then you could understand it. But it’s only been two games, so Lennon could do with sticking by him for now.