Olivier Ntcham-less Celtic prove midfielder has work to do

By David Walton

July 10, 2019

Olivier Ntcham’s future in the Celtic side certainly wasn’t helped yesterday after a dominant performance in Bosnia.

As Celtic saw off Sarajevo in Bosnia, they did so without their outspoken Frenchman. Both Scott Brown and Callum McGregor patrolled the centre of midfield, and they did so with absolute ease. McGregor in particular constantly found pockets of space, as he continues to be a key player in this Celtic side.

Ntcham, meanwhile, is still in the bad books for his words to L’Equipe about moving. Neil Lennon told the media on Celtic TV that he would have a word with the Frenchman when he returns to training.

Olivier Ntcham has big work to do this season to win over supporters (Mark Runnacles – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

The midfielder is currently on an extended break after the under-21 European Championships came to an end. And to say Celtic missed him in any of their four matches so far would be a flat out lie.

Ntcham adds real quality when he’s on his game. But he isn’t a guaranteed starter when you take a look at the full package with the former Manchester City man. His lack of consistency and tendency to look lazy in midfield is a source of real frustration for the Celtic fans, who know how good Ntcham can be.

But life without him certainly doesn’t look like being difficult if Celtic go down that route. In any showdown talks he has with Lennon, he can no longer dangle the idea that he’s a key player in this side. The truth is, he isn’t, and hasn’t been for a good nine months.

Ntcham’s future not helped by Brown/McGregor performances

Both McGregor and Brown look a much more confident partnership, and there remains good chemistry there. Both of them track back, and can’t ever be accused of failing to try their heart out. Ntcham’s case about Scottish football not testing him enough doesn’t stack up. He’ll do well to get back into this midfield as it stands. Ntcham’s future, in the meantime, remains questionable.

Callum McGregor yet again poured his heart out into the battle with Sarajevo (Stringer/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

If Celtic had struggled in Sarajevo, and needed some freshness in the midfield, Ntcham would’ve looked more appealing. But so long as Celtic are playing confident football and bossing games from the engine room, Ntcham’s chances of getting back in continue to minimise.

The longer Celtic manage without the Frenchman, the less important he gets to the side. As it stands, he’ll already have a tough task trying to take McGregor or Brown’s spot permanently too. If he wants a challenge, he would be as well sticking around and seeing if he can oust either. Because, at the moment, his case about being too good for Scottish football doesn’t stack up if he’s not playing regularly.

Ntcham needs to get his head in the game quickly (Miguel Medina/AFP/Getty Images)

The sooner the midfielder realises he’s being ridiculous, the better. Good performances will attract interest. Interest will lead to offers, and Celtic will eventually accept one if it’s high enough. That’s how it goes. But the longer Ntcham continues to distance himself from Celtic, combined with the idea that the Hoops are playing well without him, it doesn’t help him in any way.

Ntcham has big work to do. Hopefully, after the talks with Lennon, he can start showing he’s a decent footballer again.