Chelsea have been one of the most inconsistent teams in the Premier League this season. While they have been in the top four, despite that but that boils down to the equal amount of inconsistency of the chasing pack. In another season, Chelsea could have been out of the top-four already. And it shows that there are problems at the club.
One of those problems is N’Golo Kante. No one could have imagined saying that some months ago. But Kante’s issues aren’t because of himself. It is because of how things have unfolded this season, making the Frenchman look like someone the Blues can do without.
In the absence of the Frenchman, Chelsea managed to beat Tottenham comfortably. While there can be criticism for how Jose Mourinho approached the game, the Blues lost Kante to an injury early against Manchester United as well.
They didn’t beat Ole Solskjaer’s men. But they did outperform United by XG and should’ve ideally won the game as well. In the 4-3-3 shape, Mason Mount came in and played deeper beside Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic.
Not just that, but Chelsea haven’t lost a single game in the Premier League when Kante hasn’t been playing. The manner in which Mount, Jorginho and Kovacic have stepped up has a role to play in that. They’ve made sure that the ball carrying abilities that Kante brings is something they do themselves.
In the whole campaign, Kante is set to miss 14 games due to injury already. He’s not exactly been at his best, with the performances of other midfielders outshining his won. A lot of the justification comes from those who believe that he’s playing out of position.
And while it is a popular saying that Kante isn’t a box-to-box midfielder and is better as the anchor-man, it is a myth. Even at Leicester City, it was Danny Drinkwater who was the defensive midfielder. Under Antonio Conte, Nemanja Matic was the defensive midfielder.
While it is fair to say that Kante has to do more on the ball this season, but he had to do more of it under Maurizio Sarri last season. Sarri is a manager who wants his players to be technically sound. And Kante didn’t let anyone down.
He made only 1.2 interceptions per game- the lowest of his career. He won 2.1 tackles per game only- the lowest of his career. 56.2 passes per game with an accuracy of 87.9 percent. That is proof that he can be that ball carrier from midfield.
That isn’t to say that Kante isn’t a top-class player though. He can be world-class on his day and can still do that for Chelsea. His ball-winning abilities can win games and he can carry it forward with thrust too. Over time, he’s become a complete midfield package.
But one art of football recruitment is selling. Moving players on at the right time can be just as important as signing the right players.
Kante is 28 and not getting any younger with age. His current deal runs out in the summer of 2023 and recent evidence shows that injuries are taking a toll on the midfielder’s body.
Chelsea have young Connor Gallagher coming through the ranks. He is a different midfielder, as compared to Kante. But Kante’s value is still very much high. Juventus have been linked with a move for him in the past and Sarri’s men are looking for vibrancy in midfield like Chelsea were last season.
Kante would provide that impetus that Juve’s drab midfield is lacking. Chelsea would get enough money to sign a midfielder who is better at winning the ball than Kovacic or Jorginho.
While there is a chance Kante comes back to form on returning and doesn’t get injured. But the signs in recent months have been ominous. This could be a good time to move him on and do the right business when replacing him.