There’s only two N’Golo Kantes? Tuchel aghast at ‘world class’ Chelsea star

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N’Golo Kante has put fitness worries behind him and is back to doing the work of two people at Chelsea, winning the approval of new boss Thomas Tuchel in the process.

Kante did not start any of Tuchel’s first five Premier League games in charge at Stamford Bridge and was also restricted to a 16-minute cameo in the 1-0 Champions League win at Atletico Madrid.

However, Thursday’s victory by the same scoreline over Liverpool was Kante’s third straight appearance in a Premier League XI and he turned in a typically all-action display.

The 29-year-old France international gained possession 11 times at Anfield, more than any other Chelsea player, while his 14 duels contested were only bettered by Jorginho and Timo Werner (both 16).

“Super big,” Tuchel replied when asked how important it was to have Kante back to his best.

“It was clear from the first second in training what this guy is capable of doing. It’s unbelievable.

“You see his intensity and in the physical report after matches, you think they maybe tracked two people and put them into one sheet.

“It’s unbelievable in terms of what he delivers, in terms of intensity, in terms of ball recoveries and devotion to a group. This is world class, the highest level, and very, very happy that he’s in our squad.”

Despite not enjoying the most memorable season of his career, the two-time Premier League champion and World Cup winner has made more recoveries (200), tackles (76) and interceptions (57) than any other Chelsea midfielder across all competitions.

Tuchel has an enviable array of options to deploy in the deeper central midfield positions, with the passing accuracy offered by Mateo Kovacic (91.5 per cent) and Jorginho (89) outstripping the less-smooth Kante (86.6).

 

These figures widen from Tuchel’s first game in charge against Wolves on January 27 onwards, with Kovacic and Jorginho almost identical on 91.5 and 91.3 respectively, while Kante is back on 82.5 per cent. Indeed, no Chelsea player ceded position more frequently than the former Leicester City man (18) against Liverpool.

However, Kante brings so much to Chelsea in those aspects more associated with his game.

Despite having restricted game time under Tuchel so far, his per 90 minutes average for recoveries (9), tackles (4.6), interceptions (2.5) and duels won (7.4) are the best of any Chelsea midfielder during this period.

For context, none of his other counterparts average more than one interception per game, while Jorginho’s average of 2.7 tackles is the next best behind Kante.

“He comes from injury, he will not now play every game 90 minutes before we arrive at the international break,” Tuchel said, adding a note of caution.

“We have to manage him, we do this together with our physical coaches. We have to take care of him so he arrives fit for the international break and, when he comes back, I hope we can rely on him in every game.

“I’m very, very happy to have him, Kova and Jorginho in defensive midfield. This is exactly the level we need in games of the highest level. I’m super happy with all of them.”

This competition for places is something Tuchel has already seen to be paying dividends.

“I feel an unbelievable attitude towards training and towards games, I feel the bond between players that is necessary,” he added.

“In the whole world where football is played, the teams that stand out are the teams that fight for each other, who are ready to sacrifice, who are happy for each other, who push each other from the bench. This is exactly what I found.”

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There’s only two N’Golo Kantes? Tuchel aghast at ‘world class’ Chelsea star

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