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Claude Makélélé runs the rule over Chelsea midfielders Kanté and Bakayoko

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Chelsea v Manchester City - Premier League Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

More quotes from former Chelsea midfielder Claude Makélélé, who’s serving as assistant coach at Swansea City these days, but was attending some sports conference recently where he was flagged down by the Evening Standard for a chat. We had already seen Maka’s thoughts on Tammy Abraham, so now it’s time to talk about something he’s even more familiar with: midfield.

Once upon a time, Makélélé came to define a specific way to play midfield. Some called it the anchor man or the water-carrier or the metronome, others just called it the Makélélé role. I suspect it was a bit more dynamic than what we give him credit for these days, but the game has largely moved on from tactics and strategies featuring such a specialized role. Makélélé’s duties as the spare man in midfield for possession and distribution (and of course for breaking up the opposition’s play) have been taken up by other positions (such as defenders stepping up) or distributed between pairs of players, like in a double pivot.

It is one such pairing that’s being developed at Chelsea these days, with N’Golo Kanté and Tiemoué Bakayoko starting to play together more and more either in a two-man midfield (or alongside a playmaker like Fàbregas or a destroyer like David Luiz). While that development will be on hold for a bit thanks to Kanté’s injury, their complimentary skills should prove a good foundation for many Chelsea teams to come.

“[Kanté] enjoys the job. He plays for his team-mates. He’s not selfish. Every manager in the world wants a player like that in his team.

“He produces the quality with his plays and his runs but that’s not all, he does the defensive work too. He has got everything a complete midfielder has. He is the perfect fit for the system Conte has put on the pitch.”

What’s better than one complete midfielder? Two complete midfielders!

“I met [Bakayoko] when I was working in Monaco and I pushed him to make that position his own. He defends with such quality now.

“[Kante and Bakayoko] are so much stronger together. Kante runs a lot, Bakayoko is more of a dribbler, he’s more clever and powerful in possession.”

-Claude Makélélé; source: Evening Standard

Makélélé could certainly take a bit more credit than what he’s taking here for Bakayoko’s development, with his “life-changing” influence on the youngster back in Monaco helping Bakayoko get on the right track in both his professional and personal life. Here’s Maka talking to Goal’s Nizaar Kinsella about it also back in the summer.

In any case, hopefully Makélélé’s latest prognostications turn out to all be true. The likes of Bakayoko, Kanté, and Abraham could form a strong Chelsea core for many years to come.