These stats justify the comparisons between N'Golo Kante and Claude Makalele
Antonio Conte has brought the bravado to Stamford Bridge with three convincing Premier League wins out of four, but on the pitch it seems their summer signing, N’Golo Kante, has made the real difference.
Kante blocked, intercepted and tackled his way to the Premier League title last season with Leicester before his £32m transfer to Chelsea this summer. Since then, the Frenchman has slipped in seamlessly into his defensive role for Chelsea and can be likened to former Blue, Claude Makelele, in his style of play and the job he does for his team.
Makelele made a name for himself as a holding midfield player, devoutly disciplined in his position to break up the play and pass the ball on. His success at Celta Vigo, Real Madrid and Chelsea saw the defensive role he played named the ‘Makelele role’.
Under Jose Mourinho last season, Chelsea lacked a commanding figure in midfield. Nemanja Matic, the man who had done so well in central midfield during Chelsea’s 2014/15 title winning season, seemed lethargic, disinterested and lacked the sharpness it takes to play in a top Premier League team.
Comparing the difference between Matic and Kante last year, Matic made a measly 63 tackles and 67 interceptions in 28 Premier League matches in comparison to Kante’s 125 tackles and 156 interceptions in 33 matches.
Not only is the Kante an ace in his defensive duties, he plays in a key role in starting attacks by picking the ball up from the defence and passing it forwards or sideways, keeping the ball rotating and forcing the opposition to work harder off the ball as they attempt to shuffle from side to side.
Out of the players who have played all four Premier League matches so far this season, Kante sits first in the pass completion rankings with 94. Out of the 229 passes the Frenchman has made this season, 149 of them have been positive forward passes.
Kante’s confidence on the ball also extends to his dribbling ability and running with the ball and this is where the new Chelsea man may even be able to surpass Makelele in terms of his value to the team. He is able to start attacks by driving through the heart of the opposition midfield lines using his shear athleticism, like he did so many times for Leicester last season.
The Frenchman gives his new manager many new options through his raw fitness and ability on the ball. Conte has been able to play John Terry as the heart of the Chelsea defence knowing that Terry will not have to be dragged out into the midfield to defend, then to try and slowly scarper back if the ball is played over the top. With Kante occupying the midfield, covering every blade of grass possible, Terry is able to hold off, read the game and win any aerial battle which suits the Blues captain to a tee.
Conte also has the option to play another defensive midfielder alongside Kante, knowing Kante will provide an attacking threat, and so far this player has been Matic who seems to be have been lifted by the arrival of a new manager and the prospect of another league title.
The Italian manager could also play a more technical attack minded player, such as Cesc Fabregas, alongside Kante if he feels the Blues need to grab a goal, like he did to guide Chelsea to a 2-1 win over Watford this season. Fabregas’ introduction for Matic in the second half sparked Chelsea into gear and the Spaniard’s sublime assist for Chelsea’s second goal helped them to secure all three points.
There is no doubt Kante’s signing was a brilliant move for Chelsea and the Frenchman could again be the key to success for another team in blue this season.
Independent News Service