N'Golo Kante Makes the Simple Beautiful in Thumping Chelsea Win at Burnley

Oct 31, 2020, 6:20 PM GMT
Ngolo Kante
Kante was at his best at Burnley | Alex Pantling/Getty Images
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N'Golo Kanté being among the best players on the Turf Moor...turf having played 90 minutes in his preferred position at base of the Chelsea midfield: imagine my shock.

Following a couple of muddled seasons under Maurizio Sarri and Frank Lampard, where he was inexplicably asked to operate as a box-to-box centre-midfielder despite being among the best defensive-midfielders on the planet, it's not unfair to say the Frenchman's reputation had diminished somewhat.

Then Lampard came to his senses and played him in his natural position against Burnley.

FBL-ENG-PR-BURNLEY-CHELSEA
Chelsea managed a fourth clean sheet in as many games on Saturday | ALEX LIVESEY/Getty Images

While he's the most lovable man in football, an indifferent two seasons have made many forget about why they fell in love with N'Golo Kante as a footballer. What a reminder Saturday afternoon's 3-0 victory was.

Faced with beastly behemoths Chris Wood, Ashley Barnes and Dale Stephens - men twice his size (probably) - Kante was imperious, in a wonderfully, wonderfully simple way.

It was striking just how lonely the Frenchman looked - or should have looked - anchoring an incredibly attacking Chelsea side; Lampard threw caution to the wind against the early season whipping boys, flanking Kante with attacking midfielders Mason Mount and Kai Havertz, behind a front three of Hakim Ziyech, Tammy Abraham and Timo Werner.

But Lampard was right to entrust the 29-year-old with that role. From minute one the diminutive midfielder got to grips with opponents, regardless of their stature, grappling, outmuscling, throwing out a toe to intercept and sneaking in among far larger bodies to nick the ball away. The 5'5 dynamo even won every aerial duel he entered into.

Chris Wood, N'Golo Kante
Burnley couldn't get close to the Frenchman | Alex Livesey/Getty Images

It was David vs Goliath(s), and once again, David was victorious. But how many times has that been written about Kante before?

His play on the ball was equally impressive on Saturday afternoon - a vast improvement on the past two campaigns where Kante would be tasked with carrying the ball forward into opposition territory before visibly running out of ideas.

At Turf Moor, Lampard gave his number seven freedom in the opposite sense, letting him sit in the centre circle and quickly recycle the ball forward whenever it came his way.

Later in the game, growing in confidence with the game well beyond their opponents, Kante became more adventurous (by a matter of yards), making forays into the Burnley half but continuing to keep things beautifully simple with quick one-twos and sharp passes, providing a constant option for forward-thinking Mount and Havertz.

Such was his self-assurance going into the dying embers, he almost provided a delightful assist for the effervescent Timo Werner, dribbling forward, throwing a step-over and looping a through ball into the German's path.

While whoever occupies the Stamford Bridge hot seat can't seem to see it, this was surely the performance that dictates Kante must start as the defensive midfielder, regardless of the formation and teammates deployed alongside him.

This was a masterclass in defensive-midfield simplicity, and should everyone's favourite footballer continue in the same vein, the Blues' may have the foundations to surpass expectations this season.

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