Since his emergence from the dark last season, N’golo Kante has quickly become one of the most talked about French players on the planet.
As is usually the case in football, the comparison game soon started and former Chelsea tough-tackling midfielder, Claude Makelele, was picked as the best option to liken to Kante; something the Blues’ new signing has been quick to play down.
Same country, same diminutive figure, same playing position and almost the same style of play, there was no escaping from this one for the 25-year-old Premier League winner. Now that he has put pen to paper on a contract with the West London club, the suggestions of similarity have been taken to a whole new level.
Kante linked up with his new teammates last Friday and made his debut for Chelsea earlier today against AC Milan in the ongoing International Champions Cup. Coming on as a 2nd half introduction, he immediately made his presence felt as the Blues came out on top with 3 goals to 1.
Ahead of the coming season, here is how Kante will man Chelsea’s midfield for this campaign, without necessarily being another Claude Makelele.
The former Leicester defensive midfielder is probably the most hardworking footballer alive. Leicester’s head of recruitment Steve Walsh summed it up as thus;
“People think we play with two in midfield. I say no. We play with Danny Drinkwater in the middle, and we play with Kante either side, giving us essentially 12 players on the pitch.”
Kante made 175 tackles and 156 interceptions over the course of 37 league games last season. And as he went about his business on the field of the play, he only got booked on three occasions.
Even if these numbers decrease slightly this season, we are guaranteed to see an incredible omnipresence on the Stamford Bridge pitch this season.
Conte looks set to deploy a 4-2-4 formation next season, with Kante right in front of the back four.
His major role will be to connect play from the defenders to the midfielders, while also covering for the back-line when any of them makes forward dashes.
His ability to charge forward regularly and attempt to create chances for the forwards is also what makes him more than just a defensive midfield menace to the opposition.
Although still weak with his attempts at scoring goals, Conte believes that part of his play can improve, and that will further turn him into a complete monster. Kante’s ability while on the ball is underrated.
The Frenchman is known for the protection he offers to his fellow midfielders and forwards.
His defensive work will allow the likes of Oscar, Fabregas and even Matic to press further up the field, and that is set to bring out the team’s best attacking abilities.
Fabregas can fully concentrate on laying pin-point passes now and then, Oscar is allowed to surge forward in search of goals, while Matic can have all the time in the world to shoot from distance as much as he wants to. Hazard and Willian will hardly need to trackback, and this is all thanks to Kante’s defensive work rate.
He might have similar attributes to Makelele, but he sure has his own unique qualities and abilities. And he is set to prove that next season. Just whether he can go on to be as vital for the Blues as the great Makelele was, remains to be seen of course.