After a season fragmented by injuries, N'Golo Kanté had to reshape his game, with a reduced offensive contribution, to find his place in the new Chelsea of Frank Lampard who will challenge Krasnodar on Wednesday in the Champions League (6:55 p.m.).
Long indisputable, Kanté had been considered for a time as transferable this summer, to compensate a little for the buying fever of the Blues who have spent some 250 million euros.
He said to himself that Antonio Conte's Inter Milan, who had him under his command at Chelsea, had sights on the 2018 world champion.
A departure that would perhaps have allowed Lampard to bring England international Declan Rice from West Ham, able to play in the middle as in the axis of the defense, the price of which was around 55 million euros.
To make matters worse, the French press had recently echoed tensions between the player and his coach, a rumor described by Chelsea as "totally absurd".
"I think just about every club in the world would want N'Golo Kanté," Frank Lampard had swept on BBC 5 radio in September.
"He is an incredible player and I certainly do not want to lose him. He is fundamental in what I try to do," he said again.
- Indispensable but restricted -
Words followed by action since Kanté is once again one of the essentials with only 7 minutes missed over the first six days of the English Championship.
Third most used player in the workforce, in all competitions, the pocket midfielder seems to have left behind the physical glitches that made him miss twenty matches last season, forcing him to chase after his form more than after the ball.
But like a Chelsea who has yet to digest all these arrivals, Kanté is looking for the right balance.
Known for his crazy races, his ability to harass the opponent very high and carry the ball forward, it is in a more classic role of recuperator that Lampard seems to envision him.
This was particularly evident in consecutive draws (0-0) against Sevilla on the first day of C1 and at Manchester United, in a match where the offensive production of both teams was very reduced.
An evolution which is easily explained by the very offensive recruitment of the Blues with the arrivals of Hakim Ziyech, Timo Werner, Kaï Havertz, and a reorganization in a double pivot system (4-2-3-1), rather than a alone (4-3-3 at low point) as at the end of last season.
- Minimal offensive production -
The Chelsea coach who mainly associates him in the axis with Jorginho, much less mobile but more in a register of remote leader, has no other choice but to ask the French, who remains his best defender in this sector, to curb his overflowing activity and to project himself less.
This change is reflected in the statistics, since by going less to recover the ball in the opposing feet, Kanté, who was once the best tackler in the Premier League, has become the best interceptor with 17 balls recovered this season.
In terms of offensive production, it is even more spectacular, since he has only shot once in 6 matches, while he was 0.8 shots per game on average over the last 4 seasons and he did not make any assists leading to a shot, while averaging 1.2 per game, two categories where his statistics were increasing year after year.
Ultimately, the player could find his account and end up feeling comfortable in this more constrained role.
As he turns 30 in March, and even if his pro career really took off rather late, channeling his races a bit and managing his efforts better could also be a natural development that is beneficial for the player who still has a lot to give the Blues. and the Blues.
© 2020 AFP