The France World Cup winner is widely considered the ideal box-to-box midfielder on the planet, so why do Chelsea fight for balance when he performs?
After winning back Premier League titles, the World Cup and getting Chelsea’s most respected participant, it’s not easy to be critical of any part of N’Golo Kante’s football career.
Still, Frank Lampard might be thinking the unthinkable following the 1-0 defeat to Newcastle; dropping his club best-paid player with the club having not won two league matches in a row for more than two months.
Kante is fighting through injury for the first time in his career this year, stemming from the choice to play through the pain barrier at the Europa League final.
Having played through sickness and despair in the World Cup final, Maurizio Sarri then called on Kante to play in Baku in spite of his knee injury and he desired pain-killing injections so as to contribute to some glorious 4-1 triumph over Arsenal.
1 source from within the camp thought Kante would not create the showpiece match but he lined up from the kick-off and played the whole 90 minutes. He’s had problems from this day because missing the entirety of new supervisor Lampard’s pre-season.
Kante has had nearly a half-dozen other injury problems – ranging from ankle problems to hamstring complaints – during the entire year causing him to miss a total of 14 games.
When he’s been available, Kante hasn’t had the same effects in the last few years. That could be attributed to missing adapting and invisibly to a different new manager or simply due to a lack of game rhythm being built up.
Those statistics reveal this and, unexpectedly, Chelsea are winning more without him at the side. Chelsea have just won 33.3 percent of their league matches with Kante in the group and 87.5%. In all competitions, it becomes slightly better but they’ve still won just 36.8% with him along with a sudden 71.4%.
Against Steve Bruce’s Newcastle side, Kante struggled, missing the big likelihood of the match and uncharacteristically failing to control his opponents through the midfield. He won just 29.4percent of his 17 duels, gave away four fouls and wasting a fifth of his moves.
He and Jorginho have struck an exceptional partnership that’s been acknowledged by Lampard himself.
“It is great to see, I enjoyed watching their play,” Lampard said following the Watford win, with Kante missing five of Chelsea’s six matches throughout their greatest winning run of the year.
“The connection between Jorginho and Kovacic and Mason [Mount], their comfort on the ball, their pass appreciation, their ability to discover a forward pass or break the forward line, Kovacic specifically driving through the midfield occasionally, I thought they were outstanding.”
The Jorginho-Kovacic partnership was divided in recent weeks however, the duo has given equilibrium in Lampard’s system, which also asks his players to express themselves where they perform on the pitch.
Kante is widely considered the world’s greatest box-to-box midfielder and will probably continue against Arsenal but Lampard must increasingly be looking at how the existence of the France celebrity impacts the balance of his group.