N'Golo Kanté was central to Chelsea's best performance of the season against Leicester City over the weekend, just as he was central to Leicester City's surprise title win last season. Facing his old team for the first time on Saturday, he received a few token boos from the traveling contingent, as perhaps one would expect, but there was also plenty of applause to acknowledge his brief, but vital contributions.
Afterwards, Kanté thanked both sets of fans, because that's just the sort of man that he is.
Warm thanks to all Chelsea fans for this great victory making us a team.— N'Golo Kanté (@nglkante) October 15, 2016
And special taught to Leicester fans for their support.
Speaking after the game, the Man of the Match reflected on getting the three points against his former teammates.
"Getting man of the match was good for me but winning and playing well as a team was more important. I had a formidable season at Leicester and so it was a special match for me. Before the game I spoke to my old teammates, but I am a Chelsea player now and once it started it was just another game. I wanted to help my team get the three points. That's what we did."
"We needed the victory but to score three goals too is really good for our confidence. I am so happy with the win."
At the start of the season, Kanté was deployed as the main defensive anchor in the Chelsea midfield, a slightly more defensive and restricted role than he was used to at Leicester City. Since the switch to a 3-4-3, and once again operating in a midfield two, Kanté gets to roam forward a bit more often, trading off intelligently with Nemanja Matic, and even almost getting a rare goal.
"I had my chance! The goal was open but Wes [Morgan] blocked my shot. It was close! Maybe next game. It was a shame but the more important thing was the victory and I was happy to help towards that."
"The new system is working well. We have been better with and without the ball, and we have conceded fewer chances. Personally I like the system too. My job in a defensive central midfield position is to cut off attacks against us, but it has been a bit different in the past two games as I have been able to get forward a bit myself."
-N'Golo Kanté; source: Chelsea FC
It's equally expected and impressive how quickly Kanté has became one of Chelsea's most important players. When he plays well, our chances of winning increase drastically; when he doesn't (see: Liverpool, Arsenal), they drop precipitously. As long as plays like he did this weekend, Chelsea can probably achieve something quite tangible this season.