A sense of optimism has embraced Chelsea supporters following the pitiful performances witnessed last season. The man who has pioneered this change of spirit is the impassioned Italian, Antonio Conte, and his introductory press-conference as Chelsea manager was further cause to indulge in excitement.
The 46-year-old spoke of the will to fight – the emphasis was so great that Conte had used the term fight on 14 occasions during his preliminary press-conference. If there was any doubt that Conte was the right man to engender the team’s revival, they were swiftly erased.
Conte’s talk of a small fire that could develop into a blazing inferno was also a welcome change of attitude following a season that was devoid of hunger and gusto. Yet, one comment has seemed to evade the media limelight. The newly-appointed Chelsea manager spoke of his vision to attract new signings.
"In the coming days, we can buy one, two, three players. Players that can reinforce us for the season as it will be very, very tough."
Given the whole host of underwhelming signings that the club have concluded in recent times, and Chelsea’s apparent hesitation to engage in transfer proceedings, it wasn’t wholly unreasonable to doubt these claims. Nevertheless, what Conte wants, Conte gets and now Chelsea are on the verge of one of the most, if not the most noteworthy signings of the summer.
Leicester’s miraculous tale will forever be entrenched in football folklore, yet this unforgettable fairy-tale wouldn’t have materialised without the contributions of a certain N’Golo Kante.
The previous 12 months has seen the 25-year-old undergo a dramatic ascent from an unknown French midfielder to a Champion of the most competitive league in world football. Leicester’s powerhouse has established himself as one the most distinguished midfielders in Europe.
Having completed a £5M move from French side Caen last summer, not a single individual would have foreseen the magnitude of Kante’s instrumental contribution. This perhaps is best epitomised by his selection for the French national team in the European Championships, a stage in which Kante once again excelled.
His statistics for the 2015/16 season demonstrate the incredible extent of Kante’s involvement and his significance for the newly-crowned champions.
In 37 league appearances, the soon-to-be Chelsea player completed 125 tackles (3.38 per game), and recorded 156 interceptions (4.22 per game). To contextualise these numbers, Nemanja Matic had only managed to complete 84 tackles whilst registering 67 interceptions. Similarly, John Obi Mikel failed to rival the dizzying heights of Kante’s achievements; the Nigerian completed 52 tackles whilst recording 32 interceptions.
From an attacking perspective Kante’s impact is arguably more purposeful than many would expect. The Frenchman exhibits a respectable passing completion rate of 82% whilst succeeding to create 0.81 chances per game. Yet, as many of us have become accustomed to over the previous year, Kante is rightly renowned for his defensive aptitude.
Over the duration of the last two seasons there has not been a single player in Europe’s top 5 leagues that have managed to complete as many tackles (353) or interceptions (266) as N’Golo Kante, further evidence that supports Kante’s status as one of the finest defensive midfielders in World football.
1 - Nobody has made as many tackles (353) or interceptions (266) as N'Golo Kanté over the last two seasons in the big 5 Euro leagues. Crunch— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) July 15, 2016
Kante’s demeanour and ability on the field is reminiscent of Claude Makelele – the former Chelsea standout who revolutionised the holding midfield role. It seems that a Frenchman will once again provide the solution to the team’s midfield dilemmas.
Chelsea’s midfield was woefully out-of-form last season and reeked of a unit lacking steel and potency. Matic had failed miserably to emulate the standards attained during the 14/15 season, whilst Fabregas’ defensive deficiencies were often exposed.
In N’Golo Kante, Chelsea have secured the foremost defensive midfielder in European Football. His athleticism is unparalleled whilst his defensive qualities are there for all to witness. His signing has not only managed to address a gaping hole in Chelsea’s listless midfield, but has also significantly enhanced the Blues’ title challenge.
Conte’s revival seems to be well underway. Kante alone won’t oversee the return of the Premier League trophy, but he will form an integral part of Chelsea’s title bid.