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N’Golo Kanté’s ‘invisible training’ producing very visible results

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Let’s have a little N’Golo Kanté appreciation, shall we?

The quiet little man in the heart of the Chelsea midfield has had maybe one bad game all season (the 3-0 loss at Arsenal) and has been so ridiculously good most of the rest of the time that it’s become very easy to overlook his impact as a water-carrier 2.0. We took notice of his extraordinary 16* tackles against Liverpool of course, but his game-to-game contributions are a big reason Chelsea are where they are, just as they were a big reason for Leicester’s title win last season.

(That record now reads W41-D13-L6 for his Premier League career.)

It’s a bit different at Chelsea than at Leicester, given the expectations and the recent history, but for Kanté it’s just another day on the job in the end.

“It’s totally different. Last season, we were top at this stage, but we didn’t expect to be there. We just wanted to keep our position for the longest possible time. We did not know if we were going to do it because there were a lot of teams behind us.”

“Here at Chelsea it’s different. It’s a club of champions. We want to win everything and always be at the top. It’s nothing special, we just try to win every game. At Chelsea I think about 80 or 90 per cent of the team have won something, either at Chelsea or elsewhere. You can see people are not getting carried away because nothing is done yet.”

In this same interview on the Chelsea website, Kanté also talks about something called “invisible training”, which basically amounts to taking care of his body away from the training ground. One gets the feeling that Kanté leads a fairly monotonous life. Eat, sleep, tackle.

“I think there are some things you can control and some other things you can’t. Me, I just try to work on my ‘invisible training’, as we call it in French – things away from the pitch and the training ground. I try to sleep very well, to eat very well and to do the best for my health and my body.”

“Sometimes you are more tired, but this is football. We play often, we sometimes have three games a week, and you have to manage your fitness well.”

“Then before the game I try to think about my job. And when I am on the pitch I want to do the best I am able to. I don’t think about other things, the crowd, the referee, the other players. I am just focused on what I have to do. There are some who don’t get the chance to play and I know that.”

-N’Golo Kanté; source: Chelsea FC

And then he hops into his Mini and goes home. That’s so Kanté!

* Yes, 16. Opta’s a bit weird about the tackle statistic. Only tackles “won” count as tackles, then, depending on who recovers the ball, it gets recorded either as a “successful” tackle (if you or your teammate recover it) or an “unsuccessful” tackle (if the other keeps possession). So Kanté’s stat line of 14/16 means he dispossessed an opponent 16 times with a tackle, but on 2 of those occasions, that other team managed to keep the ball. While this makes sense on some level, as far as counting just tackles, it’s the 16 that actually shows how many times Kanté’s tackled the ball off of an opponent.