This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
With Olivier Ntcham making his first start of the season against Nomme Kalju and impressing, Neil Lennon will have to figure how to get the Frenchman into his starting XI more often this season.
Ntcham is back at the club after a tumultuous summer and it looks like he might be back to the form we saw in his debut season at Parkhead. The 23-year-old had asked to leave earlier in the summer, per L’Equipe, after earning some game time as part of the French side that reached the semi-finals of the U21 European Championship.
Ntcham’s return in the comfortable 2-0 victory over Kalju was described as “sharp, direct and more than a bit too classy for his opponents” by The Daily Record. But while his return to grace is certainly a good thing, it does present a selection headache.
Lennon’s options for Ntcham are limited with Callum McGregor and Scott Brown having a duopoly over the two central midfield roles. McGregor barely missed a minute for Celtic last season, asserting himself as a key figure in his 59 games for the club.
Despite being 34, Brown is club captain and would expect to play in every game that he’s needed, only allowing for rest in the less important matches. This doesn’t leave any room, barring injuries and suspensions, for the ex-Man City man in those spots.
Further forward, where he excelled in the Kalju tie, the outlook isn’t much brighter for Ntcham.
Ryan Christie has started the season like a man possessed and has contributed to a goal every 51 minutes so far in the number ten role.
Tom Rogic is also due back and despite links to Zenit the Australian is simply too talented not to get some minutes if he stays in Glasgow.
While a fit and firing Ntcham competing for places alongside strong teammates is a nice problem to have, the Frenchman may once again grow frustrated if he struggles for playing time.
Whether it be as a long-term replacement for Brown or as an upgrade on the unreliable Rogic, the gaffer simply has to find room for the man who racked up nine goals and six assists in his debut campaign at Parkhead.