N’Golo Kante is still not being used in his best position at Chelsea, Gus Poyet believes.
The 28-year-old French international was signed 2016 from Leicester City, where he cemented himself as the league’s premier defensive midfielder. He would go on to pick up a second consecutive title winner’s medal and the 2017 Player of the Year award. Though renowned for his ball-winning ability, he was described as the division’s “most complete midfielder” at the time.
Phil Neville, who made the aforementioned claim, added: “I thought he was a number six like former Chelsea player Claude Makelele. But he is a number six, an eight and a 10 – he plays absolutely everywhere, three different positions […] He will redefine what we are looking for from a midfield player.”
Kante’s 2019/20 Premier League season in numbers:
- Appearances (minutes): 18 (1,385)
- Goals: 3 (7th at Chelsea)
- Passes per 90 minutes: 55.8 (11th*)
- Chances created P90: 1.57 (8th*)
- Possession won P90: 8.6 (2nd*)
*Chelsea players with fewer than 500 minutes excluded.
Kante’s sole campaign at the King Power Stadium culminated with an unlikely Premier League winner’s medal. He would subsequently win back-to-back titles after playing a pivotal role as part of a midfield two with Nemanja Matic in Chelsea’s triumph under Antonio Conte. But the appointment of Maurizio Sarri led to the introduction of a three-man midfield and a change of role for Kante.
Sarri, the former Napoli manager, would push Kante into a more advanced position with Jorginho – following him from the Italian club – sitting deep and dictating play in front of the defence.
Some bemoaned the decision. There was a feeling Kante was better suited in a more conservative role. One of those lending their voice to this notion was former Blues midfielder Poyet, who feels, even under Frank Lampard, the 2018 World Cup winner is still not being utilised correctly.
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“In very important games Lampard went with Kante, Jorginho and Kovacic until the last month with injuries,” he told Goal.
“Those are the three most experienced players who played under Sarri but now they play with more freedom, especially in Jorginho having more possibilities to move around to go sideways and forward. Last year, he was very static. There are plenty of options.
“In Kante’s first year, he came to Chelsea and I made it public that he is the best central midfielder in the world. After a previous season as a number eight in that different position, we lost how important and unique he was as a player.
“I hope he can get back to that. In his best position, he is unique and there’s not many players that can give you what he can do right now.”