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N'Golo Kante: Time To Sell?

This summer will see Chelsea undergo several key personnel changes to the first-team squad that will ultimately define Chelsea’s fore...

This summer will see Chelsea undergo several key personnel changes to the first-team squad that will ultimately define Chelsea’s foreseeable future. Unimaginable to most Chelsea fans under a year ago, Chelsea will have an important decision to make regarding Premier League and World Cup winner, N’Golo Kante.

There is no doubting Kante’s ability: N’Golo Kante is a world-class footballer. Since joining Chelsea in 2016, Kante has won the Premier League, FA Cup, Europa League and the Premier League Player of the Season, as well as the World Cup with France. Kante brings experience to the young Chelsea squad and defensive solidarity in midfield, something which is severely lacking in the current squad. 

However, there is no denying that Kante’s influence on Chelsea has declined since the start of last season. Kante’s first season in Chelsea blue saw him involved in 377 duels (of which 52% were successful), 127 tackles (65% success rate), along with 82 completed interceptions and 275 recoveries. So far this season, Kante has only been involved in 176 duels (40% win-rate), 34 tackles (47% success rate), along with only 34 interceptions and 117 recoveries. The stats highlight Kante’s waning influence on Chelsea and reiterate the notion that Kante’s form has gradually declined. 

Kante’s decline is largely attributable to the change in role which Maurizio Sarri enforced last season. So far this season, Kante’s worst performance have come in games where he has been deployed at the right of the midfield 3, a role in which Kante seems to struggle in. With Lampard preferring the more technical Jorginho and Gilmour in the holding midfield role, Kante has been forced out on the right of the 3, requiring him to adopt more offensive positions and make runs behind the opposition’s backline, as evidenced by the goal against Manchester City. Although there have been some successes, Kante largely struggles in the role, particularly in games where Chelsea face a low-block. For example, defeats to Bournemouth and Newcastle highlighted a lack of creativity and quality in the final third, factors upon which Kante contributes to when deployed on the right of a midfield 3. 

Moreover, history has demonstrated that Kante thrives in a counter-attacking team. Kante’s game is largely built upon screening the back four or three, breaking down opposition attacks and playing simple passes to enable the more creative players in the squad to flourish. Lampard has demonstrated thus far a willingness to be on the front foot, dominating possession and pressing high up the pitch. This system requires the Chelsea midfielders – particular the two 8’s in a 4-3-3 – to create opportunities and adopt threating offensive positions, something in which Kante does not excel at.  

In addition to the drop-in form, Kante has suffered several recurring injuries, some of which have carried over from last season. Kante, who will be 29 come the summer transfer window, heavily relies upon his ability to move around the pitch at pace. Given Kante’s age and the magnitude of the potential bid, Chelsea will be aware that this summer’s transfer window may represent the last opportunity to sell Kante for his maximum value.

Despite all of the negatives, Kante has demonstrated his worth to Frank Lampard this season. Lampard has fluctuated between a number of systems so far this season, with the 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1 and the 3-4-2-1 being the most common. Although Kante’s struggles in the 4-3-3 are evident, Kante’s performances in the latter two aforementioned formations have been excellent. Some of Chelsea’s most complete performances so far this season have included Kante in a midfield two. For example, Chelsea’s 2-0 victories over Crystal Palace and Tottenham came with Kante in a double-pivoted midfield. With Lampard seemingly keen on a flexible tactical approach, Kante could prove invaluable to the Chelsea manager going forward. 

Kante’s situation at Chelsea will be one to keep your eye upon come the summer transfer window. There is no doubting Kante’s quality, and Frank will be keen on ensuring the Chelsea squad next season is competitive and full of talent next season, as the squad was in Frank’s playing days. In saying this, it is unlikely Lampard will sanction a departure given the strength of the current squad, and the fact the Chelsea squad is stronger with Kante in it. However, given Kante’s age and recent injury history, it would not surprise me to see Chelsea accept an astronomical bid, should Chelsea receive one. Whether you believe this to be right or wrong, there is one thing for certain: N’Golo Kante is one of the most influential players in world football, today. Wherever Kante’s long-term future may lie, be sure to see Kante play an integral role in Chelsea’s bid for the top four. 

Written by - @ffiero_
Edit by - @KristenPulisic

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