Chelsea

Chelsea must find cover for injury-prone N'Golo Kante soon

Tom Gott
N'Golo Kante is sidelined again
N'Golo Kante is sidelined again / James Chance/Getty Images
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N'Golo Kante is undoubtedly one of the best midfielders on the planet, but he's getting fewer and fewer chances to prove that.

Injuries began creeping into the Frenchman's game in the 2019/20 season, when he suffered no fewer than eight different problems that kept him out of a combined 25 games, and that trend has continued over the past few years.

Five injuries cost him nine games in 2020/21, and after beginning the current campaign with a muscle problem, a fresh groin injury and now a positive Covid-19 test have seen the absence numbers begin to rack up this year.

While illnesses are a different kettle of fish to injuries, there's no denying that this is becoming a significant problem for Chelsea.

As perhaps the best ball-winning midfielder on the planet, replacing Kante would be nearly impossible for any side, but Chelsea are susceptible to greater struggles because they have nobody in their squad with remotely similar characteristics to the France international.

Jorginho does not have his energy, neither Mateo Kovacic nor Ruben Loftus-Cheek have his defensive awareness and Saul Niguez, who is probably the closest of the bunch, is still finding his feet after a deadline day switch from Atletico Madrid.

Because of that, Chelsea have to completely shift their tactics every time Kante is out, and the results have varied wildly. The Blues have won all three games without him this season by a combined scoreline of 7-0, but lost the three league matches he missed under Tuchel last year - one of which was the infamous 5-2 mauling by West Brom.

Thomas Tuchel
Tuchel is used to playing without Kante / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

Chelsea are a completely different side without Kante, and given his fitness troubles are starting to take over, the Blues simply have to find somebody capable of filling the void he leaves without requiring a complete shift in play style.

A popular suggestion for this job is Monaco starlet Aurelien Tchouameni. Chelsea have been tracking the 21-year-old for a while now and had been tipped to move for him during the summer, only to eventually decide to leave him in France for a little while longer.

Stylistically similar to Kante, Tchouameni has excelled as a destroyer in Monaco's midfield, combining with fellow youngster Youssouf Fofana to form one of the most intriguing pivots around, and Chelsea could do a whole lot worse than move for the Monaco man once the transfer window opens up.

Tchouameni is not expected to cost a fortune - somewhere around the £35m was the general consensus last month - but if Chelsea want someone cheaper, they could easily turn to loan army starlet Conor Gallagher.

Also 21, Gallagher impressed at West Brom last year and has been sensational during the early weeks of his loan with Crystal Palace, proving exactly why he has long been tipped for a bright future in the Premier League.

He's not necessarily a defensive midfielder, but Gallagher is the all-round kind of talent that Chelsea's academy prides themselves on producing. He combines the grace and technical ability expected of a Blues graduate with a love of crunching a player and throwing his weight around to win the ball.

Gallagher may not be a direct replacement for Kante, but he does have the Frenchman's danger-seeking senses and is already significantly more comfortable in the tackle than any of Chelsea's current Kante alternatives.

Conor Gallagher
Gallagher has been superb at Crystal Palace / Sebastian Frej/MB Media/Getty Images

While there's no need to sell Kante now and start from scratch, those in charge at Stamford Bridge will be abundantly aware that the 30-year-old is not a 38-games-a-season player anymore, and something needs to be done about that.

Whether it's Tchouameni, Gallagher, West Ham's Declan Rice or another outside choice, Chelsea simply have to find somebody to cover for Kante as soon as possible. His job in the team is far too important to be left vacant as often as it has been.

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