Why Can’t Antonio Conte Use N’Golo Kante Properly?
Posted by Daniele Accurso | Published on October 7, 2016
When N’Golo Kante signed on the dotted line and became a Chelsea player, every Blues fan alike couldn’t help but rejoice! After the disastrous defensive displays by Matic and Fabregas last season, the Stamford Bridge faithful needed a rock solid defensive midfielder to cover the abysmal defence. Although John Obi Mikel under Hiddink performed very well during the second half of the season, people wanted a better version of Mikel. Even though he’s nicknamed the African Zidane, Mikel isn’t everyone’s cup of tea thus when Kante was confirmed, Antonio Conte had performed a masterclass in the transfer window.
However as the season has unfolded and Chelsea have adopted a 4-1-4-1 formation, with Kante screening the back line, I can’t help but feel Conte is misusing the Frenchman. Whilst at Leicester, it was the centre midfield pairing of Kante and Drinkwater which enabled Leicester to play their counter-attacking football. Kante would break up the play and then Drinkwater would spray the passes all over the pitch, mainly to Mahrez and Vardy up top. Kante in all this had two jobs; win the ball back to start with and then play a simple pass to Drinkwater who was always next to him. Now at Chelsea though, Kante is finding life a lot harder on his own in the middle. Yes, he is still winning the ball back superbly like he always does, but it’s the lack of a more creative passer next to him which is hindering him. With Matic and Oscar taking up the counter attacking midfield roles, Kante is having to make his own passes and start play when he wins the ball back. With no player right next to him that he can play a simple pass to, then watch them pick a pass, Kante is out of his comfort zone.
Watching N’golo this season has been a blessing and a curse. When the opposition dwindles on the ball too long, Kante is in there and taking back possession whether it’s sly or with a big crunching tackle. On the other hand, when he does then have the ball at his feet, it’s like watching someone on ice. His seems somewhat confused and also lacking the confidence to pick out his teammates. The simple passes are fine but it is those that have to have distance on them or speed which Kante seems to struggle with. Plenty of times, you can tell he is missing Drinkwater right next to him to take the ball and start the play. This isn’t Kante’s natural game and Conte is forcing him to become a passer when that’s just not what N’Golo is for. For Chelsea to properly utilise Kante, someone needs to sit right next to him like an Oscar or Fabregas and make a 2 man centre mid partnership. Last season in the 4-2-3-1, Matic and Fabregas were dreadful but now with Kante, the defensive duties can be dealt with more effectively and Cesc can focus on his own passing game. Would Chelsea fans want to see the 4-2-3-1 again, though? Probably not thus the 4-2-4 or 3-5-2 Conte has used this season in both preseason and the Premier League could be better formations to implement.
Therefore with Kante having to help the defense and start the attacking moves, Chelsea are holding themselves back. Let N’golo do what he does best and the team could finally tick this season. The defense needs as much help as it can get so if Kante didn’t have to worry about his passing duties but rather just marshalling the back line, Chelsea’s main problem could be fixed and Conte could lead the Blues to a Premier League title.