Chelsea’s early season injury issues have been well documented — and continuing — and affecting even our previously invincible best player, who’s been sidelined for most of the season so far.
But after completing all 90 minutes on Sunday unscathed (unlike Emerson and the half-speed Mason Mount), N’Golo Kanté is confident that he’s now back for good.
“I’m feeling better. I’ve been trying to recover for four week from my ankle injury and today I was good to play. I think my ankle is alright now.”
“I’ve been going through a lot of injuries, but I’m still okay. I try to come back in the best way. I think now I’m ready to play. I need to manage myself in the beginning to not play all the games and to not be in a difficult position, but now I feel good.”
Given his importance and his performance, it’s going to be tough to not play him. And while his return to the starting lineup on Sunday was not quite enough to knock off the league leaders, it wasn’t for a lack of trying.
N'Golo Kante ran the most for Chelsea at 12.11km and at the highest average speed of 7.39km/h. He regained possession the most times at 11 and won the highest proportion of his duels at 80%. Oh, he got a golazo too. #CFC #CHELIV #LFC— Nizaar Kinsella (@NizaarKinsella) September 22, 2019
Deployed on the nominal right side of the midfield trio, alongside Mateo Kovačić and Jorginho, Kanté almost managed to drag the team back into the game just by himself, scoring a goal of the season candidate along the way. It was a goal of tremendous skill and technical quality. So much more than just a ball-winning midfielder!
With typical humbleness afterwards, Kanté explained what went into that goal.
“I was just trying to escape the defender on my back, and then I tried to open a space to shoot. I’m happy it went in the net. Unfortunately, we did not manage to score another one but I’m happy for the goal.”
“Yes, it’s similar position [as last season under Sarri]. I need to play high sometimes. Obviously, we were losing so maybe I push even a little bit closer to the striker — but otherwise it’s similar. I need to have a connection with the defenders and the striker also.”
A true box-to-box force, Kanté continues to improve and continue to amaze. With him in the lineup, Chelsea truly have a chance against anyone. It didn’t quite work out the way we would’ve wanted to yesterday, but it was very close. We ran out of time at the end, although the match was really lost thanks to some terrible set piece defending.
“We had the disallowed goal; Marcos [Alonso] put a lot of crosses in the box — we got to some, we didn’t get to some — but we had our chances to come back. Ten minutes more maybe could’ve changed that, but maybe not.”
-N’Golo Kanté; source: Chelsea TV
If we can clean up our mistakes at the back and stop leaking stupid goals, and if we can keep our key players healthy, we just might be alright even while we tear it all down and start again.