It seems that not a day goes by without me seeing on You Tube or reading in the media that N’Golo Kante is past his best and Chelsea should sell him.
After all he’s nearly at the ripe old age of 30 (In March 2021), write and announce, many vlogs, blogs and mainstream media outlets, in order to somehow validate a view that to many others seems like madness. Me included.
2019/20 was not a good season for Kante it’s true. Largely down to a series of niggling injuries. At the age of 28, it was written by many that Kante was now injury prone. Rushed back for the Super Cup game with Liverpool, I think his 2019/20 campaign, taught Lampard, if he hadn’t already known, with his vast experience, that players in today’s game should not be rushed back after injury.
In 2016/17 and 2017/18, Kante made an average of 3.6 and 3.3 tackles per league game, respectively. The numbers have dipped significantly to 2.1 in each of the last two seasons. This shouldn’t surprise because of his more advanced role under Sarri’s management that has largely been continued under Frank.
Kante also averaged 2.4 and 2.5 interceptions per league game under Conte.
It went down to 1.2 per game last season and 2.1 in games so far this season.
When with the French national team, Kante still occupies the defensive midfielder role in a 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 formations. From the four games France played against top nations like Germany and Netherlands in UEFA Nations League in 2018, Kante averaged 3.5 tackles and 2.8 interceptions per game. In his last two games for France he’s average 3.8 tackles and 2.9 interceptions. Stats that clearly suggest Chelsea have been wasting a world-class number six in a number eight position.
Prior to the Burnley game, where the Blues were impressive 3-0 victors, Kante’s figures for the start of the 20/21 season were Tackles 13, Tackle success % 62%, Last man tackles 1, Blocked shots 0, Interceptions 20, Clearances 6, Headed Clearance 2, Recoveries 43, Duels won 27, Duels lost 22, Successful 50/50s 7, Aerial battles won 5 and amazingly with no aerial battles lost. I know that stat changed on Saturday, against Burnley despite Kante being my personal choice for man of the match. I remember thinking what a mismatch his and Chris Wood were in the air and I was right.
Comparing Kante to Rice
So let’s compare world class Kante with his critics usual favourite, 21-year-old Declan Rice’s , shall we? As a direct comparison his figures prior to last weekends game his stats were Tackles 12, Tackle success % 50%, Last man tackles 0, Blocked shots 1, Interceptions 15, Clearances 8, Headed Clearance 5, Clearances off line 0, Recoveries 41, Duels won 30, Duels lost 25, Successful 50/50s 10, aerial battles won 6, aerial battles lost 5
As we can see Kante has the upper hand, although not by as much of a margin as I’d envisaged. He’s definitely better in the air though! (Joke)
Having watched Kante playing back deeper in recent matches, I was reminded of Claude Makelele and I think Kante could play that role for us perfectly. Makelele was 30-years-old when he signed for Chelsea. In today’s impatient social media infused fan base terms, he’d be past it.
Yes, Kante had a bad season last year and was obviously affected by injury. Even his movement was affected. In the 22 games he played in 2019/20 his stats 0f 3 goals, Tackles 44, Tackle success % 45%, Blocked shots 6, Interceptions 44, (He’s made more than half of that figure already this season) Clearances 31, Headed Clearance 10, Recoveries 158, Duels won 96, Duels lost 138, Successful 50/50s 24, Aerial battles won 19, Aerial battles lost 32, Errors leading to goal 0. We are indeed woeful for the little man, but as I said then, it takes these elite athletes time to heal and then time to get back to match speed. I think he certainly looks like he’s back to his best now.
So my question is not Kante or Rice? But why would you sell the new Claude Makelele and why can’t they play in the same team?