In the first Old Firm clash of the 2018/19 season Olivier Ntcham was the standout player. Pure Fitbaw has previously highlighted the young Frenchman as one of the Celtic players that English Premier League clubs should attempt to buy in the summer 2018 transfer window, suggesting Everton, Leicester and Watford as potential destinations. Here, Laurie McGinley – football development officer and coach for the SWPL team Glasgow Girls and co-creator of The Curve Mindset – gives us a quick analysis of key parts of the player’s performance against Rangers.
Celtic V Rangers is packed with emotion, hatred and history and is arguably the most exciting derby in the UK as a result. It has been dominated in recent years by Celtic as a result of Rangers having financial problems and Celtic recruiting a top class manager in Brendan Rodgers. Rodgers has faced criticism from a lot of fans for inaction and sub-par signings in this 2018 summer transfer window but has brought some quality players to the club during his tenure. One of these fantastic signings is Olivier Ntcham. The young Frenchman was excellent in the Old Firm clash, helping Celtic to dominate the game, and was rightly named man of the match. Ntcham is worthy of further analysis due to his ability to play in a number of positional roles.
The example below shows that he can be an option to receive the ball between the lines and is therefore sitting in front of the Celtic defence when they are in possession. Ntcham always tries to play the ball forward and in this instance he can accept the ball from the centre back or move forward from the back knowing he has Scott Brown beside him to maintain the balance of the team.
Ntcham also dribbled with the ball and attracted opposition players to him. Here he has four players around him which helps create more space for his teammates. Celtic’s tactical plan seemed to be to get the ball out wide so by drawing the opposition inwards Ntcham was able to send some of the 81 passes he made (just 7 fewer than Rangers midfield trio combined) into space on the wing for the likes of Kieran Tierney.
Ntcham can play as a number 10 and is helped, at Celtic, due to the players behind him such as Brown having the understanding that they have to provide covering balance when he advances. As you can see below he has moved forward on the ball and has lot of space in front of him due to how deep Rangers are playing. This is dangerous as Ntcham is an intelligent player who usually makes the right decisions, doesn’t panic under pressure, has a fantastic shot on him and can also pass well such as to the Celtic player in between the lines in this example. For less than £5 million Celtic have found a player with a well rounded skillset that is now worth 4 or 5 times that amount.
Celtic’s goal came from a swift counter attack with Ntcham helping the move by using an intelligent run on the blind side of the defender. Ntcham always wants to get forward at any chance, helped to do so by his high level athleticism, and shows his willingness to score a goal. Despite this he is aware that there is a long way to the opposition goal and positions himself so that if Rangers defend the break away he is still deep enough to help prevent them transitioning to an attack of their own.
Ntcham has run over 50 yards to support the attack and, although this mainly showcases his stamina, he is also able to evade the defender tracking him due to his intelligence and maintains his concentration to execute the finish. James Forrest played a unselfish pass and picked him out but if he didn’t make that run then perhaps Celtic wouldn’t have scored.
Ntcham was the best player on the pitch against Rangers and thoroughly deserved his Man Of The Match award. He is one of the best players I have seen in Scottish football for a long time and will continue to progress under Rodgers.
Do you agree with Laurie that Olivier Ntcham is the best player for some time in Scottish football? He is contracted until 2021 but clubs, such as Porto who were interested this summer, may try and prise him away from Celtic in the upcoming transfer windows. What value would you put on him? Celtic fans – what positional role do you prefer to see him in and do you think it might be fair to hope for more incisive passes into the box or behind the defence at times instead of him taking pot shots from outside it? Let us know at Pure Fitbaw on Twitter.