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Keep, Sell, Loan: N'Golo Kanté's 2016-17 season in review

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Appearances: 39 starts (2 as substitute).
Minutes: 3,139 in Premier League; 387 in domestic cups.
Statistics (per 90 minutes, Premier League): 60.34 passes attempted (89% completed); 2.35 tackles won (41% success rate); 2.38 interceptions.

It is a common habit in football to overvalue goals and assists, and thus goalscorers and assist-makers, players whose names show up on scoresheets and in the papers and who are guaranteed to make the highlights, both the nightly and the YouTube varieties. That N’Golo Kanté has managed to garner near-universal recognition in such an environment is perhaps an even better indicator of his talents than the back-to-back titles he’s now won as an individual player — the first non-goalkeeper to do so in Premier League history — first with Leicester City last year and now with Chelsea.

Looking back at Leicester City's amazing title run in 2015-16 and their subsequent performances this past season following Kanté’s transfer to Chelsea — not to mention Chelsea doing the inverse of that with an abject season in 2015-16 and then a title-winning one in 2016-17 — it’s hard to overstate Kanté’s influence on his teams. The 26-year-old swept nearly every individual award at the end of the season (except Chelsea Player of the Year, which went to Hazard); he probably should’ve done that last season as well. Next stop of course is the Ballon d'Or.

For Chelsea to get Kanté at just £32 million turns out to have been the steal of the century. José Mourinho wanted him, too, but Kanté chose Conte and the rest, as they say, is history.

From August to May, from a 4-2-4 to a 4-3-3 to a 3-4-3, Kanté was fundamental to Chelsea. He did not quite hit the statistical heights that he reached at the King Power Stadium, though one suspects that has as much to do with better teammates and team style than anything else. His indefatigable all-action (and injury free) style was amazing to watch, and even his teammates joked that there must have been two of him (the Kanté Twins, as Eden Hazard put it) to be able to cover so much ground. He even chipped in with a couple goals and he made strides in developing his passing and attacking game as well (which was highlighted as the area he needs to work on by Conte — no one’s perfect; work work work!).

West Bromwich Albion v Chelsea - Premier League Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The Good

Kanté is definitely not a goalscorer, but he picked two great moments to score his first two Chelsea goals, both against José Mourinho’s Manchester United, first in the league and then in the FA Cup, which proved to be the winning goal of the quarterfinal match-up.

The Bad

As great as he was against Manchester United, Kanté’s two worst games came against Arsenal, first in the 3-0 loss at the Emirates that jumpstarted the 3-4-3 revolution and then in the FA Cup final, which put a sour final note on an otherwise magnificent season. Kanté also struggled a bit against bigger, stronger players like Spurs Victor Wanyama and Mousa Dembélé, whom he rated as his toughest opponents this past season.

The Best

After losing the PFA Player of the Year award to his then teammate Riyad Mahrez last season, Kanté swept the end-of-season individual awards this time around, winning the players’ (PFA), the writers’ (FWA), and the experts’ (PL) vote. He was also named the best French player playing outside of France and his Chelsea teammates also voted him as their Players’ Player of the Year. What a season!

Verdict

It has only been one season, but as of right now, Kanté's acquisition from Leicester rivals only Eden Hazard's switch from Lille to Chelsea in 2012 as the best market move the club have made in the 2010s. The scary part (for the rest of the league) is that he can still improve.

This isn’t really a question. Kanté is a keep and may that be the case for a long-long time.

Poll

What would you do with N'Golo Kanté next season?

This poll is closed

  • 39%
    Keep
    (416 votes)
  • 33%
    Cuddle
    (355 votes)
  • 26%
    Buy him a flash car
    (281 votes)
1052 votes total Vote Now