The Kante conundrum, we’re still here?

Maurizio Sarri has passed the halfway point into his first season as Chelsea manager, and he stays well on course for his and the boards season objectives of a top four finish, and a real challenge for silverware.

As the Italian former banker continues to implement his system, I am still seeing many supporters question his use of N’Golo Kante.

Fans assume that because Kante is one of the best interceptors and ball winners in the game, that he should be sitting in the role currently occupied by Jorginho – because according to some, he ‘is he best defensive midfielder in the game’.

My first response to that and I’ve said it many times before, is that Chelsea don’t use a typical DM. They use a deep lying playmaker, a lot like Andrea Pirlo did at the end of his career. Nobody can tell me that Kante can play that role, because he can’t.

Secondly, it’s a myth that Kante is a born DM. He actually started his professional career as a winger. He then got reverted to a central midfielder, playing the box to box role. Even at Leicester City he didn’t stay as a holding midfielder, he played as a double pivot, which again is different to the traditional defensive midfielder role.

Finally, do you really want to restrict Kante from using two of his top attributes by keeping him in a deep defensive position all match? Because if you keep him deep, you will not get the best out of his pace, and his incredible unlimited match engine.

Where he is now you are getting the best use of his best assets. He can still be an interceptor, but further forward as well as defensively. But he can also use his pace and excellent ability he has to carry the ball without having to worry about leaving gaps behind him. He can also use his energy going box to box in a high press system, which to me is his best position/role.

Yes I admit he can still panic a little when in very advanced positions, and that’s something I feel he is slowly improving this season. But Sarri has already said that Kante is in there for the defensive balance of his midfield – which is essential. Just as it is essential for me that Kante plays as a box to box midfielder, and not a holding midfielder.

Holding = restricted, and not using his best assets.

Simon Phillips


3 thoughts on “The Kante conundrum, we’re still here?

  1. Our Kante is our Kante. He is a modern day footballing phenomena and of that, there is no doubt.

    Your take on his strengths and weaknesses (only in the goal scoring department) are valid.

    However, given that most of our goals are conceded from counter attacks down our left hand side (Alonso out of position yet again or failing to track back), it falls on Kovacic to not only be the box-to box runner but also provide defensive cover for Hazard.

    Hazard is not and should be expected to carry out defensive duties. How much can one player do?

    I have been suggesting that Azpiliqueta moves to left back (I believe that he is a better left back because inverted wingers cannot beat him on his right foot) to given solidity to our weaker side. Ampadu can play right back to make that side stronger too.

    Then we swap Kante’s present position with Kovacic.

    This would allow Hazard extra freedom on our left hand side (especially once Higuin comes in) and pushes Kovocic who is the more technical player into the offensive press presently occupied by Kante. When Kovacic tires we have a ready made replacement in Barkley who thankfully likes to take a shot on goal AND can head the ball.

    These are little tweaks that can make the team better balanced, more secure and still play Sarriball.

    Basically, swap Kante and Kovacic and the conundrum becomes less bothersome.

    Simon, it would be nice if you could respond to our comments so that we can gauge if we sometimes have valid comments too, please.


    1. Agree with maybe swapping Kante and Kova, that’ll work. Personally though as wing backs are essential in attacking as well as defending, I never like seeing a player on his weaker side so I’m not too sure about switching Aspirin again. But yes, all valid points you make. Thanks.


      1. Many thanks Simon. I agree with you.

        If Emerson could step up to the plate ( he deserves a chance at least) then life would be so much easier. We really need to find a solution to our left back exposure.

        I’m also hopeful that one day Reece James will move to our right back position.

        Keep up the excellent work!!


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