Maurizio Sarri’s decision to play N’Golo Kante in a more attacking midfield role has been one of the biggest points of debate this season, especially since Chelsea’s early-season form took a sharp nosedive into boring mediocrity.
While in theory Kante being the key to Chelsea’s high press is not a terrible idea, the reality of Sarri-ball as we know it is that we end up relying on the world’s greatest defensive midfielder for the midfield’s only attacking impetus instead — and that’s before we consider the easily dominated, bypassed, or marked-out player who’s deputizing in the position that made Kante not only a champion of England (twice!), but also world champion with France last summer.
Unsurprisingly, France manager Didier Deschamps isn’t looking to mess with success and continues to think of Kante as key to his team’s defensive organization.
“I saw that his coach preferred to see him in a more offensive position because he has a player, Jorginho, who plays in this position a little lower. [But] when he is with me in the French national team, he has a great importance in this lower position. He is very important defensively and in the organisation of the game.”
While Kante has improved in his new role steadily over the course of the season — the only player Sarri has managed to improve maybe? — the rest of the team around him is not living up to the same expectations. Sarri’s sticking to his guns and is ready to die on that hill of course, but he may be on borrowed time already. But at least Kante will come out a better player for the experience?
“N’Golo Kante is able to play in several positions. He is a modern player, a modern midfielder. [...] Each coach has his formation, a different vision but I’m not worried about that. It’s rather a good thing that players are versatile and can play in different formations or positions.”
-Didier Deschamps; source: Goal
In a way, it’s a bit of a reverse-Mikel, who always played a defensive role for the club but was used as a more attacking midfielder for Nigeria.
Maybe we just need a third Kante twin to make it all work?