N’Golo Kanté must be protected at all cost, including from himself. That’s been one of Frank Lampard’s most important tasks ever since taking over as Chelsea boss last summer.
“When I came in at the start of last season he had been injured from the Europa League final and that just rolled on through the year [and] that was so unfortunate for us to lose him for 50 per cent of the games because of the level of player he is...”
“We’re aware and we keep check on his training and numbers and how much distance he travels because every time you train and allow him off the leash in training he makes ridiculous output because of the way he plays. We are very careful with that and at the minute we are in a good place and hopefully that continues.”
It’s taken us over a year, but we seem to have figured out how to get Kanté healthy and fit and, even more importantly, keep him healthy and fit — knock on wood and all wood-like and wood-adjacent substances.
It’s taken us about as long to truly figure out how to best utilize him in Lampard’s tactical schemes as well. Kanté made his name in England in midfield-twos (either in Ranieri’s 4-4-2 or Conte’s 3-4-3), where he had a very dynamic role next to less dynamic players. So perhaps it made sense that both Sarri and Lampard initially deployed him as one of the box-to-box players in a midfield three. But as it turns out, playing the deepest (and, crucially, most central) position in an inverted triangle is actually a more ideal — he’s able to cover practically the entire midfield defensively and provide support in possession at will. Sure, he may not be popping up in the penalty area anymore, but we have plenty of others who can take care of that task.
One of the best ways to get good results is to play as many players as possible in their ideal roles. Kanté’s great in most roles. He’s been night on perfect in this latest one.
“He’s much more than [just “quietly influential”] for us [...] his levels of performances are really high.
“I keep saying every time I get asked about N’Golo that I have so much faith in him and the top midfield player that he is in world football. Not just breaking up and winning balls back as we know that is a huge quality of his, but his passing and supporting in midfield and playing in that deeper role now has been a very comfortable transition for him as he’s playing. Really, really happy with him.”
-Frank Lampard; source: Football.London
Music to our ears.