Is Maurizio Sarri wrong about N'Golo Kante?
By Joe Harker
When Chelsea lost 3-1 to Tottenham Hotspur last weekend there was a great deal of criticism for Jorginho, the Italian midfielder who anchored the three man midfield at Napoli and now does the same job for manager Maurizio Sarri in his new job, having followed him on a transfer in the summer.
Critics suggested the pressure put on Jorginho, who dictates the play for Chelsea in his deep role, by Dele Alli stifled the team and gave Spurs the upper hand in the game. They suggested a player more adept at defending would have been better suited as the team's defensive midfielder and since Chelsea have world class defensive midfielder N'Golo Kante in their team many thought he should have been at the base of midfield/
Jorginho is key to Sarri's gameplan, he passes more than anyone and almost every Chelsea attack comes through him. When the defence need someone to pass to it's Jorginho, who then sends the ball elsewhere and keeps the Chelsea machine ticking over.
However, this means Kante is having to play further up the pitch in a role that doesn't make the most of his strengths. Sarri has insisted that he needs someone more technical at the base of his midfield, meaning Kante has to make do with playing elsewhere and Jorginho will start there when fit.
Sarri's style of play features Jorginho playing at the base of a three man midfield, that isn't going to change. His style is what makes him such an asset to the manager and is completely different to Kante's, meaning the Frenchman will never be able to play that role in Sarri's team.
Regardless of Kante's world class quality he is not the right fit for Sarri's system, but many watching have wondered whether that means the manager is wrong as he isn't getting the best from a top player.
The Chelsea manager actually criticised Kante, saying he isn't technically good enough to play in the heart of midfield. He said: "Kante, in the last match, wanted to solve the match after the first 15 minutes but in the wrong way.
"He lost his position. He attacked too much the other box. And I think this is not one of the best characteristics of Kante."
The manager has been using Kante as a box to box midfielder which doesn't make the best of his talents. By playing him further up the pitch he is unable to screen the defence and stop opposition attacks just before they threaten the backline, which is something he excels at. Without him protecting the defence it is making the team more vulnerable.
Chelsea have conceded 24 clear cut chances in the Premier League this season, as many as Huddersfield and more than Watford, Leicester and Wolves. Without Kante in a deep role the team is more exposed. Though they have not conceded often from the clear cut chances too often it suggests they are more vulnerable than they were with the Frenchman at the base of their midfield.
The Daily Express suggests Kante might be so shocked and disappointed by his manager's treatment that he could look for a transfer away. Almost every team in football would like Kante to be in their squad but a transfer in the near future seems unlikely considering he just signed a new £300,000 per week contract to stay at Chelsea for another five years.
Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher said Kante was "very average" in a more advanced role. He's not really a creative player and offers little further up the pitch. Carragher suggested a change in formation to put Kante and Jorginho together in a pair so they could both play a deeper role.
Perhaps that's the future, though it remains to be seen whether Sarri will adapt his tried and tested system to get the most out of Kante. He's a great player, but not when he's being used how he is right now.