Gianfranco Zola has defended Chelsea’s usage of N’Golo Kante in a more advanced role last season.
With Maurizio Sarri at the helm, Chelsea utilised a 4-3-3 formation, with 2018 summer signing Jorginho playing the deepest of the midfield trio.
Where is Kante’s best position? Five things to know…
- N’Golo Kante is regarded as one of the best defensive midfielders in Europe.
- But the Frenchman was used in a more attacking role by former Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri last season.
- The Italian opted for Jorginho in the deepest part of his midfield trio.
- This brought criticism from large sections of the Chelsea support.
- But Gianfranco Zola has explained that Kante was pushed further forward because he “is not a sitting midfielder”.
The change meant that Kante, widely regarded as one of the best defensive midfielders in Europe, was pushed further forward into a slightly more attacking role.
This brought criticism from many sections of the Chelsea support as well as pundits, with some believing Sarri was nullifying the best parts of Kante’s game.
But Zola, who was Sarri’s assistant for the season, has defended the decision to push Kante forward.
“There are two reasons for that,” he told BeINSports.
— beIN SPORTS (@beINSPORTS) August 11, 2019
“The main reason is that in the way Sarri plays, the sitting midfielder, the number six, is the player that plays the most balls in the whole team.
“Normally Jorginho, when he was at Napoli and also last year, makes between 140 and 160 touches, sometimes even more.
“So he wants somebody that confident in getting the ball and playing it, not afraid to play and be influential in the game. That is the first reason.”
In his first Premier League season, Jorginho had 3,551 touches of the ball, more than any other player in the division, and averaged 100.98 per 90 minutes.
The Brazilian-born Italy international also attempted and completed more passes than any other player, with 2,782 of his 3,119 finding a team-mate.
Subscribe to Squawka’s Youtube channel here.
Zola then went on to explain that Kante could not fill the role required because he isn’t a sitting midfielder, better at moving around the pitch rather than staying in a general area.
“The second reason is that Kante is not a sitting midfielder,” he added.
“Although he has always played in a midfield two, at Leicester and in his first two years at Chelsea, at Leicester he was playing with Drinkwater, who was the sitting one and Kante was moving around. He was free to go sideways, backwards, whatever he wanted.
“And it was the same at Chelsea when Matic was the sitting one and Kante was doing the same job. We spoke with Kante about this and he was very happy to play the position because he liked the position.”
With Sarri gone and Frank Lampard now in charge, Kante is set to return to a more defensive role as part of a two-man holding midfield alongside Jorginho.
Kante happy with Sarri role
Zola’s comments come after Kante himself insisted he was happy to play a more attacking role under Sarri.
“I had been playing in a shape for several years with two midfielders only,” he said earlier in the month.
“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.”