Kante’s fitness could define Chelsea’s season

Kante’s fitness could define Chelsea’s season

N’Golo Kante has been one of the most consistent players across all positions since he arrived in England. Chelsea have been hurt by his absence over the opening weeks, as he has been in and out of the team. There has been a lot spoken about the Blues’ defensive set-up and the Frenchman will go a long way to improving that. The young players have been exciting to watch, but it will be the experienced players that dictate how successful the team are this season.

It was a huge boost for Frank Lampard to have Kante getting back towards his best against Liverpool. Although he scored an excellent goal that highlighted his improvement on the ball, it wasn’t his quality out of possession that was most telling.

On many metrics, Chelsea were considered to have the better of the game in terms of expected goals (xG) as the team managed to keep big chances to a minimum. That is no mean feat against a Liverpool team that has won every Premier League game to date this season. The overall performance was encouraging for Lampard and Kante was central to it.

The French international had four ball recoveries during the game. His positioning and energy made a huge difference to the Chelsea team. At times, the nerves that Liverpool showed in possession were likely a result of Kante’s presence. The Reds weren’t at their best and they found it difficult against the Blues’ midfielder. There isn’t a team in the league that wouldn’t want the 28-year-old in their squad and he is going to be the key player at Stamford Bridge as the season progresses.

Another benefit that came with Kante’s return was the ability to move Mason Mount into an advanced position. The young midfielder was played on the left wing, but he had the license to roam into the central areas and he did cause problems with the positions that he took up. He got up in support of Tammy Abraham and it the striker had made better decisions in the final third, Mount likely would have scored in the game. Based on the early viewing of Chelsea, it will be the pair from the academy that offer the goal threat. Lampard needs to field those two in advanced roles and the return of Kante allows him to do that.

Chelsea have an excellent run of fixtures coming up and it is crucial that they go on a run of wins to establish themselves as a Champions League contender. Lampard won’t be harshly judged if the team doesn’t finish in the top four, but there is no reason why they can’t. They have a huge attacking threat and there is genuine excitement around the club. Unlike Arsenal, Tottenham and Manchester United, there’s is no pressure from the stands and that could turn out to be a huge positive for the team.

The loss of Eden Hazard was always going to be difficult to cope with, but this Chelsea team isn’t struggling for attacking quality. The emergence of Mount and Abraham has helped a lot with that. It is at the back that the team is struggling. This is why Kante is key. He has the ability to do the work of two men in the middle of the park and still contributes in possession. If he stays fit and performs well, Chelsea could have a better season than expected.