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Special Juan

7. N'Golo Kante

Started by Special Juan,

2,051 posts in this topic

Kante injury nightmare seemingly over – now Lampard must get the best out of him

https://theathletic.com/2161142/2020/10/26/ngolo-kante-chelsea-frank-lampard/

kante-lampard-chelsea-scaled-e1603731660198-1024x681.jpg

The first six weeks of Chelsea’s season have been a decidedly mixed bag at both ends of the pitch, but there is one number that looks unequivocally positive for Frank Lampard: 532. That’s how many Premier League minutes N’Golo Kante has played — more than anyone else in the squad — having missed just eight minutes of action across the first six games.

It’s too soon to tell whether the most injury-hit stretch of Kante’s career is truly behind him, but any return to something like his old durability has the potential to make the Frenchman a more impactful addition than any of Chelsea’s headline-grabbing new signings in the last transfer window. For that to be the case, though, Lampard also needs to figure out the best way to maximise the talents of his most proven elite performer within the broader tactical system, and it’s clear that process is still ongoing.

The concept that beguiled Lampard after the Premier League restart — that of Kante as Claude Makelele 2.0, shielding and playmaking as the deepest of three midfielders instead of Jorginho — has been shelved. Now the two men are increasingly playing together at the base of a 4-2-3-1 formation designed to get the best out of Kai Havertz, as well as Chelsea’s myriad of formidable attacking weapons. Results and performances with it have been inconsistent, and a stable balance between defence and attack has remained elusive.

Kante is part of the reason why. He has played his best football for Leicester City and Chelsea in a more traditional midfield pairing, but the responsibilities of the two players in a double pivot are different. There is considerably less scope to roam far and wide to break up opposition moves, even when pressing, because the structural integrity of the team is at stake; get it wrong and you end up conceding farcical counter-attacking opportunities when your entire midfield is bypassed, as Lampard found against Southampton.

It’s an adjustment for the man whose performances marked him out for much of his Premier League career as the best seek-and-destroy midfielder in world football. Kante is being asked to concentrate his influence over a smaller area of the pitch, and one early consequence of that shift in emphasis seems to be that his attacking contributions — always a relatively marginal element of his game — have totally dried up.

Kante has taken one shot in Chelsea’s first six Premier League games, against Crystal Palace earlier this month, having averaged at least 0.77 attempts per 90 minutes in each of his previous four seasons. He has also played no key passes, another category in which he had been steadily trending upward since moving to Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2016. Overall, his shot-creating actions — attacking actions that lead directly to a shot attempt — per 90 minutes so far in 2020-21 is just 0.85, having been comfortably above 2.0 in each of the previous three campaigns:

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The first six Premier League matches of this season clearly constitute a dangerously small sample size, so it’s wise to treat any slight trends with caution. But this isn’t a slight trend; Kante’s attacking contributions haven’t simply become less frequent, they have been almost entirely eliminated from his performances. Given the sheer variety of players better equipped to impact the final third that Lampard can now choose from, it’s fair to argue that asking the Frenchman to focus on the defensive side is a sensible move.

We have seen the theory of this midfield in recent Chelsea history. Six years ago Jose Mourinho built his third Premier League title-winning side on the midfield axis of Nemanja Matic and Cesc Fabregas: a dominant destroyer paired with a prolifically progressive passer. It worked brilliantly for a season until Matic found the defensive workload overwhelming and his confidence crumbled, along with every other part of that team.

Kante has the intelligence and mobility to adapt to the Matic role, even if he can’t offer the same physicality. Jorginho is a different kind of midfield conductor to Fabregas and, unlike the Spaniard, cannot claim to be one of the most gifted creators of his generation, though both men possess similar defensive shortcomings that place greater demands on the players around them. The key question is whether the Kante-Jorginho axis has enough to consistently get the ball to Chelsea’s attackers in advantageous positions.

An underrated part of Matic’s game, particularly in the prime of his Chelsea career, was his ability to pick out short, sharp forward passes to the feet of his more advanced team-mates — a legacy of the fact that he actually began his professional career at Kosice as a No 10. Even in his three full seasons at Manchester United, the average progressive distance of the Serbian’s passes (the total distance that completed passes travel towards the opposing goal) compares favourably to that of Kante:

d15cac7f8ac0322ad8e30454b21bc3db.png

The average progressive distance of Kante’s passes in Chelsea’s first six Premier League matches this season is just 171 yards per 90 minutes and, while there is plenty of time for that figure to get closer to what he has done in previous campaigns, it does fit the broader idea of the Frenchman’s more defensive focus. That means the burden of ball progression falls more heavily on Jorginho, who has looked pretty good by this metric in recent seasons:

6270b1aa3002f664e4262edb9fea6d0b.png

Jorginho’s average progressive distance from passes so far this season is just 248.8 yards per 90 minutes, which might help explain why there have been fairly significant stretches of games when Chelsea seem unable to get the ball to Havertz and their front three in positions to do real damage. That has been particularly noticeable in the last two games against Sevilla and United which, while ending in welcome clean sheets, also yielded the two worst Expected Goals (xG) ratings of the Lampard era: 0.36, then 0.22.

If the Kante-Jorginho axis continues to struggle to progress the ball to Chelsea’s attackers, Lampard has a talented alternative. Mateo Kovacic — voted last season’s Player of the Year by fans — has been the major casualty of this season’s shift to 4-2-3-1, but possesses qualities that make him particularly well suited to addressing this particular problem. As well as being arguably the best ball-carrying central midfielder in world football, the average progressive distance of his passes also stands up well:

8a09c4d8d891366382ee6f37fc76cfd3.png

Kante’s more defensive focus makes it more likely that Kovacic would replace Jorginho in Lampard’s 4-2-3-1 system. That pairing certainly projects as having more mobility and dynamism without being any more vulnerable defensively, though it is worth pointing out that we have only seen the Kante-Kovacic midfield axis for 45 minutes this season — 45 minutes which West Brom won 3-0 before Chelsea’s second-half comeback.

Getting the midfield balance right looks increasingly like Lampard’s next big challenge, and there might not be a perfect solution with the personnel he has; the full Maurizio Sarri midfield of Kovacic, Jorginho and Kante is not realistic as long as giving Havertz minutes as a No 10 remains a priority.

Kante’s return to consistent availability is a hugely encouraging starting point, and asking him to focus on his defensive contributions in a team with so much attacking firepower is logical — but Chelsea still need to figure out the best lines of midfield supply if Lampard is to feel the benefit of his new weapons.

 

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6 hours ago, communicate said:

Actually Kante does suited to our team, imagine having a xabi alonso type next to kante. 

Technically this is Jorginho but they don't mesh together well at all. I also don't like the 4231 we're employing. Actually, it might work better with a better player than Jorginho - someone who can pass forward consistently, has real vision, but can also defend - Declan Rice maybe? Until then we won't see the best of Kanté in a pivot. 

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2 hours ago, The Skipper said:

Technically this is Jorginho but they don't mesh together well at all. I also don't like the 4231 we're employing. Actually, it might work better with a better player than Jorginho - someone who can pass forward consistently, has real vision, but can also defend - Declan Rice maybe? Until then we won't see the best of Kanté in a pivot. 

The funny part is they kinda do fit each other, you want a more sitting passer next to Kante . The problem is Jorginho is just a very2 limited sitting passer. 

I don't watch enough of declan rice to understand his game, but we need a sitting midfielder preferably with better passing skill, player like Matic or mikel would be very good for us

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13 hours ago, The Skipper said:

Technically this is Jorginho but they don't mesh together well at all. I also don't like the 4231 we're employing. Actually, it might work better with a better player than Jorginho - someone who can pass forward consistently, has real vision, but can also defend - Declan Rice maybe? Until then we won't see the best of Kanté in a pivot. 

The problem is jorgi, he is just too limited of a player to play any role.

I can't say much about rice but a matic or mikel is kinda what we need. Sitting dm,who can defend and good at passing forwaed

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Rewatched the highlights and still can’t explain his terrible error leading to the Sheff goal. Ziyech has clearly told him where to go and he just stood there. Inexplicable. But I guess every players has his brain fart moments. Maybe a sign of being gassed. Hopefully he gets back healthy from the damn nt 

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14 minutes ago, Magic Lamps said:

Hopefully he gets back healthy from the damn nt 

He better cuz he is badly needed, he swallows most things up and thats good for the defence.

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4 hours ago, Jason said:

Scored a rare goal tonight for France, against Portugal but the best news is...

 

so,,he and James can back to cobham early right?

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4 hours ago, blu35_army said:

so,,he and James can back to cobham early right?

Yes. James has already returned to Cobham and Kante will follow suit as well, unless Deschamps tries to be "funny"...

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On 30/10/2020 at 3:44 PM, communicate said:

The funny part is they kinda do fit each other, you want a more sitting passer next to Kante . The problem is Jorginho is just a very2 limited sitting passer. 

I don't watch enough of declan rice to understand his game, but we need a sitting midfielder preferably with better passing skill, player like Matic or mikel would be very good for us

Rice would be great

he can pass and defend

is not afraid to move the ball forward at all via dribbling if need be

I am so oki with Kante as the DMF deep sitter in a 4 3 3 atm

it has rejuvenated him and he is finally healthy again

Thiago takes a shedload of pressure off Kante in terms of playing out from the back as well

Thiago was immense in a back 2 CB combo with Marquinhos Friday versus Venezuela

clean sheet, dominated the hell out them

so hoping for Agent Siva to convince Marquinhos to come here, especially if PSG lose Mbappe to Real Madrid and Neymar to Barca as unless they sign Håland and Sancho then, they are taking a serious dive from top 6 or so non EPL teams on the planet (those being the big 3 in La Liga, PSG themselves, Juve, and Bayern, with Dortmund or AC Milan or Inter sorta banging on the door)

Marquinhos and Rice give us great flexibility as well, as both can play CB and DMF

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17 hours ago, Vesper said:

Rice would be great

he can pass and defend

is not afraid to move the ball forward at all via dribbling if need be

I am so oki with Kante as the DMF deep sitter in a 4 3 3 atm

it has rejuvenated him and he is finally healthy again

Thiago takes a shedload of pressure off Kante in terms of playing out from the back as well

Thiago was immense in a back 2 CB combo with Marquinhos Friday versus Venezuela

clean sheet, dominated the hell out them

so hoping for Agent Siva to convince Marquinhos to come here, especially if PSG lose Mbappe to Real Madrid and Neymar to Barca as unless they sign Håland and Sancho then, they are taking a serious dive from top 6 or so non EPL teams on the planet (those being the big 3 in La Liga, PSG themselves, Juve, and Bayern, with Dortmund or AC Milan or Inter sorta banging on the door)

Marquinhos and Rice give us great flexibility as well, as both can play CB and DMF

Silva has been very2 good, I was skeptical when we signed him due to his age but he has proved me wrong. He has coped with epl physicality very2 well. Plus like you mentioned he free kante from build up duty which is a big plus.

In term of long term because clearly silva isn't long term solution, I think we had this conversation before. We don't need good cb, we need great commanding cb. Can marquinhos or rice lear our backline? I don't know. Rice barely played as cb and Silva was the leader for psg. 

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11 hours ago, communicate said:

Silva has been very2 good, I was skeptical when we signed him due to his age but he has proved me wrong. He has coped with epl physicality very2 well. Plus like you mentioned he free kante from build up duty which is a big plus.

In term of long term because clearly silva isn't long term solution, I think we had this conversation before. We don't need good cb, we need great commanding cb. Can marquinhos or rice lear our backline? I don't know. Rice barely played as cb and Silva was the leader for psg. 

Thiago Silva has 2 year left max I would assume. Cannot see him going beyond 38yo (he turns 37yo 2 months into next season, and 38yo 2 months into the one after that) at an effective level as an everyday starter.

Lead the line WC CB's as rare as fuck, unfortunately.

Sergio Ramos may leave RM in January He is 34yo now, is almost exactly a year and  half younger than Siva, so he has 3, maybe 4 years max left, and thus is not a long term option either, but would be a hell of stop gap for 3 and half years or so. Not sure if he would even come here, plus PSG is really up to grab him in January. I certainly think that a CB pair of Thiago and Ramos would give us 2, maybe 3 years (depending on Thiago) of a CB pairing good enough to win the CL. It is short term thinking, but there it is. I know this is so against my stances since I joined here but these are (atm) truly world class CB's. I guess it depends on how the club feels about partially going for it all over the next three years or so versus building for the long run. It is only one position, the rest we are all in on youth.

Remove Ramos and it is truly slim pickings, especially if I accept your positing that neither Rice nor Marquinhos are lead the line type CB's. I will say that neither have shown they could NOT be such.

So what is left, and actually available and also proven WC?

The one that I put down with Marquinhos as my only other real interest.

the very expensive José Giménez

I highly doubt Juve will sell  Matthijs de Ligt , and if they did, he would cost as much as Giménez (or more perhaps, not sure on that) PLUS he has, ffs, dirtbag Mino Raiola as his agent now, so super trouble even if we wanted him

Romagnoli is so not leaving AC Milan (and he ALSO has the ratfucker Raiola for his agent, who is (as an aside) a large reason why we bought Kepa, as we preferred Donnarumma above all others, save Oblak, BUT we refused to deal with Mino from all that I recall)

I also just realised that another of my very few dream signings left is with that cunt Mino as well, Håland, ughhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

next (and this goes against my younger player maxim as well)

Kalidou Koulibaly, who turns 30yo over the coming summer, and thus should (who knows with the poison dwarf) be far cheaper than the £100, £120m napoli were demanding 2 years ago or so

he has rebounded from a slight dip last year, and probably has 4 good to great years left (I do not see him as a Ramos and Thiago, play until you are 37, 38 at a high level type)

Alaba is not a lead the line type of CB, and zero chance we will pay him his salary demands of £350K PW or so.

Milan Skriniar could be had for a fair price, but again, I do not see him as a lock for a lead the line type, Conte has frozen him out, and his play has suffered as a result

Stefan de Vrij is playing far better than Milan, but he turns 29yo in 2 and half months, and will cost more than Skriniar, even though he is 3 years older

Inter (lol, they are loaded at CB) has a CB, young, who would be my 3rd choice (for a long term play) if we cannot do Marquinhos or Giménez and we use Rice at DMF : Alessandro Bastoni (21yo, LEFT FOOTED,1.90m, great on the air and on the ball)

Matthias Ginter is another option IMHO, although I do not think (atm, things can change) you would call him truly WC, like Giménez or Marquinhos PLUS he turns 28yo halfway through next season (he turns 27 in January 2021), so he is not a player we can wait a couple of years to truly go WC level on (that is just my opinion). If we do not buy him next summer, he goes off my board as first level, must buy target. He is close to his dead prime now, and I doubt he takes it to another level if we are talking about a post 28, 29yo.Ginter.

final remotely acceptable option in terms of proven high quality CB, Caglar Söyüncü (Leicester will want a lot, but we have a fairly friendly relationship with them)

Dayot Upamecano has fallen off a cliff, he has been TERRIBLE for the last 2 months, super risky play IMHO, we shall see, he was my number one target for ages (as he is doable with little effort and less cost compared to some) but damn, has he been shite, which makes me nervous AF

that's it atm

the rest not listed are all non proven WC or near WC players OR are simply not available

 

I guess the bottom line (assuming we buy Rice for DMF, and do not get Ramos or Marquinhos)

José Giménez is the play (but I will admit, his injury record is troublesome) The main question is will we drop that much on a CB?

followed by 

Alessandro Bastoni (I cannot see Inter coughing him up though, grr, unless we flash monster cash, far beyond Skriniar or De Virj)

Matthias Ginter

Caglar Söyüncü

or as a wildcard

Kalidou Koulibaly (only if for a very fair price, which is so not going to happen I wager)

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Frank Lampard hails Chelsea star who is “ridiculous” in training

https://www.caughtoffside.com/2020/11/22/chelsea-news-lampard-hails-ridiculous-kante/

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has heaped praise onto N’Golo Kante as he gets back to his best for the Blues.

The France international has long looked a world class performer at this level, but he’s also had some fitness struggles in recent times that have seen his all-round influence on the team wane a little.

Chelsea fans will be thrilled to see the best of Kante again now, with Lampard also clearly a huge fan of what he brings to the team and the way he applies himself in training.

Lampard’s side have won their last five games in a row in all competitions, with the west Londoners really seeming to have turned a corner with another impressive result and performance away to Newcastle yesterday.

Kante is sure to be a key part of Chelsea’s success as he has been in the past, and Lampard has spoken in glowing terms about how good it is to see the 29-year-old back to his old self.

“Last year, however you want to phrase it, he missed 50 per cent of games with injuries, he had a tough time for different reasons,” Lampard said of Kante after the Newcastle game, as quoted by the Metro.

“We’ve been working very hard to get him fit and fresh with how we manage his training and game time. But his levels of performance are really high.

kante chelsea

N’Golo Kante in action for Chelsea

“I keep saying every time I get asked about N’Golo I have so much faith in him. The top midfielder that he is in world football, and not just breaking up and winning balls back, we know that’s a huge quality, but his passing and supporting in midfield, playing in that deeper role now, it’s been a very comfortable transition for him as he’s playing.

“I’m really, really happy with how he’s playing. I don’t want to tempt fate [with his fitness] because at the minute it’s going well. It’s a constant one for us that we are managing.

“When I came in at the start of last season he had been injured from the Europa League final and that rolled on through the year and we just chased it down from there.

“So that was unfortunate, it felt unfortunate for us to lose him for 50 per cent of games because of the level of player he is.

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THE DEBRIEF: CAPTAIN KANTE LEADS THE WAY

https://www.chelseafc.com/en/news/2020/11/22/the-debrief--captain-kante-leads-the-way?cardIndex=0-0

The Debrief: Captain Kante leads the way | Official Site | Chelsea Football  Club

Having enjoyed a winning return to domestic duties following the final international break of the year, our analysis of the post-match statistics show how N’Golo Kante is thriving in a deeper midfield role and our attacking impetus continues to improve.

Chelsea made it five wins on the spin in all competitions as an own goal and a second-half strike from Tammy Abraham sealed all three points in Newcastle on Saturday lunchtime. Here, we take a look at the numbers and the tactics behind the victory…
 

Kante key as defensive destroyer

Frank Lampard’s 4-3-3 has provided a solid platform for our improved performances and results in recent weeks, with the full-backs encouraged to get forward and join the attack. However, the system relies heavily on a defensive base and Kante’s deployment as the deepest, single-pivot holding midfielder has been key to that.

No player won more tackles (4) or made more interceptions (3) than the lively Frenchman at St James’ Park, with his efforts acting as an essential screen in front of Toni Rudiger and Kurt Zouma. The centre-backs were also the only players who completed more passes than Kante. 

Yet it wasn’t just in our own half that the 29-year-old excelled, as the heat map of his afternoon’s work shows.

9a7e067ebcfa77b5ce35ae0c5301a40a.jpg

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the Blues’ performance on Tyneside was the suffocation inflicted on the hosts whenever they won back the ball. While our possession statistics were dominant, with a 71.1 per cent share of the ball and 90 per cent pass completion, the counter-press was effective and Kante led that effort by picking up second balls all over the pitch.

He was voted man of the match by fans on the 5th Stand app and few could disagree with that!

Attacking from all angles

Following our 4-1 victory over Sheffield United last time out, Hakim Ziyech stole the headlines for an all-action display but this performance demonstrated the holistic nature of Chelsea’s attack. Our attacking avenues were split fairly evenly – 34 per cent down the right, 36 per cent on the left and 30 per cent through the centre – even though 80 per cent of our shots were from the middle third.

780870fca3686a147c6649787018f411.png

Abraham had a game-high three of the team’s 14 goal efforts, one of which was tucked inside the post to double our lead in the 65th minute, and two of our three on target. 

The other was an effort from Timo Werner, who put in a lively performance down the left and set up Abraham’s goal with a brilliant run, even if he didn’t have the most clinical day in front of goal himself.

The German fired a blank for the first time in five matches for the Blues but has now been involved in 10 goals (seven of his own plus three assists) in his last eight games at club level. Abraham, meanwhile, has 23 goals since the start of last season, more than any other Chelsea player.

In control on Tyneside

The Blues made it a dozen games unbeaten in fairly comfortable fashion, enjoying one of our highest possession statistics of the season, with nobody spending more time on the ball than Rudiger (10 per cent). Next were Zouma (9.9 per cent) and Reece James (7.3 per cent). Mason Mount had more touches of the ball (91) than any non-defender on the field.

Six of our 14 goal attempts were off-target and five were blocked. We scored the opener without registering a shot as Federico Fernandez bundled into his own net from close range, under familiar back-post pressure from Ben Chilwell.

NEWCASTLE 0-2 CHELSEA (A) | PREMIER LEAGUE HIGHLIGHTS

We restricted Newcastle to just one shot on target, although they did hit the crossbar through Sean Longstaff with the score at 2-0.

Zouma won a game-high nine aerial duels, four more than anyone else on the pitch, and had a 96 per cent pass completion rate, the most of any starter.

Edouard Mendy has seven clean sheets in his nine appearances for Chelsea, with four in five Premier League games. He is currently averaging a goal conceded every 405 minutes. Four successive away clean sheets in all competitions is our best run since February 2014.

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On 16/11/2020 at 5:42 PM, Vesper said:

Thiago Silva has 2 year left max I would assume. Cannot see him going beyond 38yo (he turns 37yo 2 months into next season, and 38yo 2 months into the one after that) at an effective level as an everyday starter.

 

He desperately wants to play in Qatar so i'm cautiously hopeful we've got two season's plus the part of 22/23 before the world cup.

Maybe if Brazil win it and/or we're in a title/CL fight he'd be able to ride the crest of a wave and complete a 3rd season.

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