Wherever N’Golo Kante Goes, Titles Will Follow
Chelsea defeated Sunderland 1-0 on Wednesday to open an early six-point gap on nearest rivals Arsenal and Liverpool. The goal was scored by Cesc Fabregas, a player who suddenly looks very much like the footballer that led Chelsea to the 2014-15 Premier League title by forming an excellent understanding with Diego Costa.
The celebrated change to a 3-4-3 by Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, opted for after their 3-0 defeat to Arsenal, has now yielded 10 straight EPL victories. The front three of Costa, Pedro and Eden Hazard has rightfully been praised for their performances in that stretch, but their ability to play with style and expression, as well as Fabregas’ return to form, can be pinpointed to the grafting of one man: N’Golo Kante.
Fabregas scored the goal, Willian registered the assist and Pedro gets credit for the “hockey assist”, but the move was started by Kante winning a header over the 6’5’’ Jan Kirchoff. Kante is 5’6’’.
Chelsea reminds us all that patience is indeed a virtue https://t.co/pmGsc6FNmX— NBC Sports Soccer (@NBCSportsSoccer) December 14, 2016
The French defensive midfielder is just as responsible for Leicester City’s terrible defense of their title as he is Chelsea’s surging run. It’s undeniable, with Kante in your team, you win — your midfield becomes a formidable axis because he does the work of two men. Without him, everything is infinitely harder.
N’Golo Kante loves to win. pic.twitter.com/imgahNij1D— Bleacher Report UK (@br_uk) December 14, 2016
N'Golo Kanté since joining the Premier League:Most tackles attempted (221)
Most interceptions (195)
Never stops running. pic.twitter.com/pU4pncjG8A
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) December 3, 2016
Kante has played every minute of Chelsea’s Premier League campaign this season — only Cesar Azpilicueta and Thibaut Courtois have done the same for the London club. According to WhoScored, he also leads the team in tackles per game (2.9), interceptions (2.8) and fouls (1.4).
His passing isn’t half bad either. Chelsea visited the Stadium of Light on Wednesday and came away with over 65% of possession. Kante completed 91% of his passes (72/79), which is just above his season average of 89.1%. At Leicester last season, Kante was completing his passes at an 81% rate with a side that employed a more direct style, leading to four assists. Simply put, Kante is capable of playing any way you want him to, and he’s capable of doing it at a world-class level.
Liverpool are an attacking juggernaut, Arsenal are forever edging closer and Manchester City remain formidable, but Chelsea are blessed with the talents of Kante, and there's literally no getting around that.