Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante has revealed he enjoyed the role change under Maurizio Sarri last season.
The Frenchman made a name for himself as one of the best defensive midfielders in Europe while at Leicester City and Chelsea, playing in a two-man system.
Which position is best for Kante? Five things to know…
- Kante is considered one of the best defensive midfielders in Europe.
- The Frenchman has won two Premier League titles and a World Cup in the past three years.
- But he was played further forward by former Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri.
- This decision was slated by a large group of Chelsea fans.
- However, Kante has admitted he enjoyed the role change.
However, Maurizio Sarri’s arrival at Chelsea in the 2018/19 season saw Kante shifted into a more attacking role in a three-man midfield, rendering him less effective in the defensive phase.
In Antonio Conte’s final season at Chelsea, Kante averaged 3.39 tackles per 90 minutes in the Premier League, compared to 2.15 per 90 under Sarri.
This decision remains of the biggest criticisms of Sarri’s year-long spell at Chelsea before leaving for Juventus.
But Kante admits he enjoyed the role change put upon him under Sarri, allowing him to be more involved in high pressing and attacking.
“I had been playing in a shape for several years with two midfielders only,” he told Yahoo Sport, as reported by GFFN.
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“All of a sudden, I found myself as a box-to-box midfielder, with one no.6 and two no.8s. By repeating this in tactical games in training, in matches and with the advice of the coach, I think that I successfully adapted.
“I like this position, it allows me to join the attacks and to have an attacking role in the team. Aside from that, there is also a little bit more high pressing involved on the pitch which I enjoy.
“In this position, you sometimes have your back to play and less time on the ball than in the no.6 role. You have to make sure you are positioning yourself properly and applying yourself technically. I like this challenge and I like this position.”
What next for Kante?
Despite Kante’s enjoyment in his new role, the Frenchman is likely to return to a more defensive position under Frank Lampard.
The new Chelsea manager has mostly favoured a 4-2-3-1 in pre-season so far, with Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic the current starters in the two-man defensive line.
Kante has missed Chelsea’s pre-season so far due to an injury picked up toward the end of last season, which he played through to help the Blues win the Europa League final.
But the Frenchman is expected to be one of the first names on the teamsheet once he returns to full fitness, joining Jorginho in the deeper midfield roles.
Speaking shortly after being announced as Chelsea manager, Lampard was asked if he knew which position Kante would play next season, saying: “Yeah I do, thankfully.
“I’m not going to sit here and say how we’re going to look next season because we’re starting pre-season tomorrow and the players are coming back.
“I think and I’ve said before Kante is one of the greatest midfielders in the world. In the last few years, his performances have been outstanding.
“One of the pleasures of me getting this job is that I’m able to work with players of that quality.
“My job would be to find the best position to get the best out of him in the team.
“I’m fortunate to have a player like him, we’ll work, but I know the qualities and attributes he has and will try to get the most out of him.”