90min
Chelsea

N'Golo Kante is back & the world should be terrified

Tom Gott
N'Golo Kante is playing out of his skin
N'Golo Kante is playing out of his skin / Marc Atkins/Getty Images
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“I think he is the strongest in the double-six, in the centre, the heart of the game. For me he is a double-six because we can use his energy, his range in his game, his ability to recover the ball."

When Thomas Tuchel first arrived at Chelsea, one of the first questions he was made to answer was how he saw N'Golo Kante. The German's viewpoint was simple. He's not the lone defensive midfielder Frank Lampard thought he was, and he's not the attacking workhorse Maurizio Sarri tried to make you believe.

He's all of that put together, and a little bit more.

Thomas Tuchel, Ngolo Kante
Tuchel is an enormous fan of Kante / Pool/Getty Images

What Tuchel has done is return Kante to a midfield two, similar to his role in Antonio Conte's 3-4-3 when he won the 2016/17 Player of the Season award. That was the last time Kante was a genuine dominant force, but he's back.

He has been outstanding since Tuchel's arrival at Stamford Bridge, but he took things to a whole new level in Wednesday's 2-0 win over Atletico Madrid.

Atletico were painfully boring in attack, but that was largely all because of Kante, whose relentless pressing and determination stopped them from building any form of momentum. Whenever they threatened to get going, Kante was there to extinguish the flames.

The scary thing about Kante is how he makes it all look so effortless. There was a moment in the first half in which Joao Felix was weaving his way through Chelsea's defence and looked through on goal, only for a retreating Kante to come out of nowhere and nonchalantly tap the ball back to goalkeeper Edouard Mendy and restore order at the back. Things went from 100 to zero real quick.

He's just always there. He's always everywhere. It's unbelievable.

When praising Kante, a lot of the excitement goes to his undying stamina. To be able to charge around the pitch with so much enthusiasm from the first whistle to the last is outrageous, but to suggest that Kante relies on his physical tools to dominate does not do him justice.

Sure, he's fit enough to charge around the pitch, but it is his unfathomable vision which sets him apart from the rest. He doesn't just find himself in every danger zone by coincidence. Kante can smell danger before the opposition has even decided they're going to try it.

Playing him at the base of midfield limits Kante's brilliance as it tasks him to only sniff out danger in a small section of the field and stay in that one position for most of the game. He's fine at that, but it's like putting a Go-Kart engine in a Ferrari. He can do so much more.

Now part of a midfield two again, Kante has all the freedom in the world to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, and the rest of the football world should be absolutely terrified by that. This Kante isn't wearing shackles. This Kante is maximised.

"If you play with NG you always play with a minimum half a man more; this is unique," Tuchel said after the Atletico win. He knows what he has with Kante, and that is why he is playing to his strengths. If Kante is on form, he can have that game-changing ability which hasn't been seen at the Bridge since Eden Hazard, just in another area of the pitch.

Thomas Tuchel, N'Golo Kante
Tuchel & Kante are a scary force / Alex Livesey - Danehouse/Getty Images

Nobody has benefited more from Tuchel's arrival than Kante. Sure, Andreas Christensen, Antonio Rudiger and Marcos Alonso are back in the fold, and Timo Werner and Kai Havertz are playing well for once, but Kante has seen his superhuman powers restored.

He's no longer an average midfielder. This is one of the best players on the face of this planet, and credit goes to Tuchel for making that happen.


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