Chelsea did extremely well to capture the signature of Ngolo Kante this summer as his reputation in the game was at an all-time high after his combative displays helped Leicester City win the Premier League title. He also starred for France during the summer. The Blues faced competition from Champions League clubs, but they managed to bring him to Stamford Bridge and he has already emerged as a vital part of their side. The switch to a 3-4-3 formation has given Kante a prominent role in the side and it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that the midfielder wins two league titles with two different clubs back-to-back.
How has he started the season?
He is best known for his combative qualities in the midfield and he has brought them with him to Chelsea. The stats are slightly less impressive, but when given context, they still prove that he is the best at what he does in the Premier League. He is averaging 1.91 tackles won and 3.09 interceptions per game, which is a fall from last season (3.38 tackles won and 4.22 interceptions). However, he is now playing in a better side that is capable of dominating possession. There are less opportunities for him to win the ball back, therefore his fall in ball retrievals shouldn’t be seen as a regression in his performance.
The one area of his game that has improved a lot at Chelsea is his passing. He is now completing 90% of his passes, compared to 82% last season. Some would argue that this increase is due to him now not needing to play long balls with regularity. However, his average pass length has also increased from 16.59m last season to 17.36m this campaign. His decision making has improved significantly and he is now losing the ball less frequently.
What is his role in the team?
At the moment, he is being used as part of a two-man midfield in a 3-4-3 formation, which is similar to the role he was playing at Leicester. Antonio Conte recognises that with a player with Kante’s relentless work rate, he can allow himself to play with only two players in central midfielders as the Frenchman covers the ground of two men. He is partnered by Nemanja Matic, who is also known for his ball retrieval skills, meaning that Chelsea have a very combative midfield. Playing alongside Matic has allowed Kante to be a lot more forward thinking and he is now contributing in attacks as well as defensively. The move to Chelsea has certainly brought out the best in Ngolo Kante.
Can he maintain his form?
The French international has been consistent since moving to the Premier League and it is difficult to see his form dropping at any point. His work rate and energy means that he never stops running on the football pitch, and he will retrieve the ball through hard work alone. His reading of the game is superb and it is much easier to maintain form in the position that Kante plays than further forward on the pitch. It will be interesting to watch how he develops his game when in possession as it is clear that he is working hard on this at Chelsea.
It was a great move by Chelsea to bring in the machine that is Kante and he could once again be the signing of the summer. Without Kante, Chelsea wouldn’t have been able to move to a 3-4-3 formation as there is no other player in the squad that can do what he does on the football pitch. His consistency is matched by few others in the league, while the hard work that he puts in allows the attackers to thrive. Kante will continue to be a revelation and it wouldn’t shock this writer if he adds another Premier League winner’s medal in May.
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