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Thomas Tuchel faces up to harsh reality of N’Golo Kanté’s injuries

Big decisions

Chelsea v Leicester City - Premier League Photo by Robin Jones/Getty Images

We used to say that 71 per cent of the world is covered by water, the rest by N’Golo Kanté. Unfortunately, that’s changing, and not just because of global warming.

Kanté’s powers are fading, and have been fading for a couple years now, perhaps as far back as the Europa League final in 2019, which he gutted out on half a leg. He’s not been the same ever since.

Perhaps this was always going to be inevitable. Kanté was so good, his own body couldn’t keep up with him. For the second time in the last three years, he will have failed to crack 3000 minutes on the season. He had never played fewer than 3000 in any of his other full seasons as a senior professional.

While has Kanté has avoided major injuries, the constant small issues have been just as impactful, as head coach Thomas Tuchel reflected upon after Thursday’s 1-1 draw against Leicester City.

“He is that guy who makes the difference, and if you only have him for 40%, then it is a huge problem. [...] N’Golo is our key player, and we need him on the pitch.”

“IIt’s hard to live with. It’s important for him to be there and to have the rhythm. [But] when was his last game he started? It was weeks ago. So he constantly starts getting rhythm, but once he has that, comes a little injury, and he’s out again.

“[We] do everything to solve it. Of course, he as well. I don’t blame him, it is just a concern and a fact that we miss him a lot because he brings something that is unique in world football, and he has that ability to lift everybody up and make that difference. This is the challenge for him and for us.”

Further complicating the situation is Kanté’s contract, which has just one year left to run. He may be in line for an extensions once when we’re able to extend one, but until happens, we can only hope that his head doesn’t get turned.

Chelsea FC v Juventus: Group H - UEFA Champions League Photo by Robin Jones/Getty Images

When he’s on — and the Leicester game was not one when he was on — he’s still the world’s best who has the ability to win the game by himself, without scoring or assisting a goal, even. We’re going to need players of his level even as we embark of a rebuild.

“I think he is our key, key, key player, but key, key, key players need to be on the pitch. {He] can make the difference, but he can only make the difference if you are on the pitch and on your top level. this is our target for him, and he, anyway does everything.

“[Someone] like N’Golo with the mentality of a helper, a water carrier, this makes the difference and big teams and successful teams need this. That’s why we love him so much, and everybody wants to play with him and why we miss him so much when he is not there.”

-Thomas Tuchel; source: Football.London

Kanté’s irreplaceable. But he’s no longer invincible.