Since arriving in England, N’Golo Kante has experienced unprecedented amounts of success, winning two Premier Leagues and an FA Cup. Add to the pot a World Cup trophy, a couple of player of the year titles, and there’s nothing more the Frenchman could ask for. However, this season the 26-year-old could be facing his toughest challenge yet.
Here’s why N’Golo Kante is holding Chelsea back
A new era under Maurizio Sarri has forced the Frenchman to come out of his comfort zone and play in a more advanced role. Sarri prefers to have a holding midfielder instead of a defensive midfielder in front of the back four, so that’s why Jorginho now operates the deepest of the midfield three. This has pushed N’Golo Kante into a role where he’s making much more attacking runs than he’s used to. This has forced him to take more shots, as he now averages 1.2 shots a game.
It’s clear that Kante is uncomfortable in a more advanced role. The Frenchman has been dispossessed on average 1.3 times a game, in comparison to just 0.6 in the World Cup. When under pressure in tight spaces, the 27-year-old crumbles as he doesn’t have the technical prowess to excel. Although putting in 100% effort, Kante’s contribution in that role hasn’t been up to the satisfaction of his manager.
Over the weekend, Chelsea was handed their first defeat of the season. However, it wasn’t just the defeat that hit home, it was the manner of the loss. Tottenham Hotspurs ripped the Blues apart at Wembley, so much so that the 3-1 scoreline flattered Sarri’s men to a degree. This defeat has opened up an inquest at Stamford Bridge with many feeling Chelsea’s unbeaten run was just papering over the cracks in their performances. The 59-year-old seemed to respond to the criticism of the result by deflecting attention onto the World Cup winner.
“I want to play a central midfielder who is a very technical player. I don’t want Kante in that position.” The Italian then went further to pick holes in the Frenchman’s performance on Saturday. “Kante, in the last match, wanted to solve the match after the first 15 minutes, but in the wrong way. He lost the position; he attacked too much.”
The 27-year-old is struggling to find the balance between attacking and defending in his new role, and while he finds his feet, it’s going to cost Chelsea dearly. You can’t ask a player to change his mindset after playing in the same style for his whole career. So, if the Chelsea manager isn’t going to play Kante in his preferred position, he should allow the likes of Matteo Kovačić, Ross Barkley or Cesc Fàbregas to fill in instead. Kovačić would provide more intricate play as he could link up with Eden Hazard in tight spaces.
Cesc Fàbregas would improve Chelsea’s play in the final third as his vision is unrivalled at Stamford Bridge. While Ross Barkley’s raw power and ball carrying skills would help the Blues on the counter-attack, in a nutshell, it’s clear the Italian isn’t going to compromise his system, meaning N’Golo Kante’s time in the Chelsea starting XI may be all but over.