Analysing N'Golo Kante's battling midfield display against Manchester City
Chelsea carried on their recent good form with a 3-1 victory away to title rivals Manchester City. It wasn’t as easy as the scoreline suggests, but after the home side missed several good opportunities to extend their lead, Chelsea rallied and fought back with vengeance. Despite their run of eight successive league victories, Antonio Conte will still want to see improvements from his side if they are to challenge for the Premier League title. They may opt to strengthen in defence in January, but one player that will be vital to the Blues chances between now and the end of the season is N’Golo Kante.
The Frenchman is a reigning Premier League champion and he is sitting at the top of the division with his new side as well. He played a major part in Leicester’s shock title triumph and he is now having a major influence on Chelsea’s resurgence under Antonio Conte. The Italian has switched to a 3-4-3 formation and a major reason why he was able to make this switch was due to the presence of Kante in the team. His energy and ball retrieval skills are second to no player in the league and Chelsea are able to play with only two men in the central midfield.
His role was even more important against City as Nemanja Matic was missing. Although Cesc Fabregas is an excellent technician as he showed with his assist for Chelsea’s first goal, he doesn’t have the same defensive ability as Matic, therefore Kante had to step up and he did so superbly. During the match, he made three tackles and three interceptions, all of which stopped Manchester City attacks. The home side did get some joy in the attacking half, but that wasn’t down to a fault of Kante, who put everything on the line to keep his side in the game. Without the Frenchman’s ball retrieval skills, Chelsea wouldn’t have been in the position to win the game.
The addition of Fabregas meant that Kante didn’t have to take as many risks on the ball in terms of creativity. It is an area of his game that has improved this season, but there are still doubts about his ability to influence big matches like these with his passing. In that regard, it may have been a blessing in disguise that Fabregas was in the starting eleven as he has the ability to create something out of nothing. He did so for the first goal and that gave Chelsea the confidence to go on and win the game.
That said, Kante played it simple and that was crucial to his side starting attacks from deep. His pass completion rate of 73% was slightly lower than it usually is, but that was due to Manchester City’s high pressing game. He didn’t try to over complicate his game and that shows that he knows his own limitations, which is required for a player in Kante’s position. At times, defensive midfielders can try and overplay which puts their side under threat. This isn’t something that Kante can be accused of and his simplistic play helped Chelsea to an important three points.
It was by no means his best performance since moving to Chelsea, but his tenacity is crucial in matches such as these. There was a period when Manchester City looked like they could run away with it, but Kante battled hard and snuffed out several promising situations for the home side. Chelsea’s recent success has been due to their change of formation and Kante’s work rate has facilitated that. He received a lot of credit for Leicester’s surprising title triumph last season and will deserve even more if Chelsea regain their crown this campaign.
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