There weren’t many decisions Neil Lennon got right against St Johnstone yesterday, but dropping Olivier Ntcham to the bench was one of them.
The Frenchman featured in a short cameo against AC Milan on Thursday night after previously being on the bench against Ross County last week. However, after another ineffective display from Ntcham at the San Siro, he found himself out of the team for Tom Rogic against the Saints.
Granted, Rogic didn’t exactly impress against Callum Davidson’s side, but he doesn’t exactly have the record of poor performances Olivier has produced this season.
For me, Neil has been standing by Ntcham for too long this term. We’ve played a total of 24 competitive matches this season, and Ntcham has featured in a grand total of 22 of them. Only those recent fixtures against County and Saints have seen him benched.
And it’s difficult to know what’s going on with what’s clearly one of the most talented central-midfielders we have at the club. With a contract that expires in 2022, you would’ve thought Ntcham would’ve been upping his performance levels to bag himself a future move.
However, in his 22 matches this season, he only has one goal and two assists to his name (Transfermarkt). But it’s not just his direct goal contributions that have been a problem this season, it’s his all-round game that’s been a problem.
Not dominant enough
In Europe, he’s been totally overrun twice against Sparta Prague and has been guilty of far too many lackadaisical touches in possession and loose passes that have been gifted straight to the opposition.
When Ntcham joined the club from Manchester City in the summer of 2017, the Frenchman was known for his passing range and technique on the ball. It’s so difficult now to remember the last game Ntcham had where he managed to control the game.
His last Premiership start was against Aberdeen back in October, with stat experts WhoScored giving him the lowest rank of all of Celtic’s midfielders on the day.
He’s been vastly underperforming this season, with not enough competition pushing him for a place. David Turnbull and Ismaila Soro may be there in reserve, but there’s been no pressure on Ntcham to get the finger out. Neil Lennon hasn’t been playing the alternatives enough.
Keeping Ntcham dropped for his second competitive league game is a step in the right direction. He has to know he’s not guaranteed minutes in this Celtic side just because of the raw ability he has. He must start showing it consistently once again.
He’s had his opportunities – 22 of them in fact – it’s time for him to show his true worth.