N’Golo Kante is one of the best footballers in the Premier League. He broke out at Leicester City in 2015, after signing from Caen.
As the Foxes shocked the world and won the league, the unassuming Frenchman became the most wanted man in football. The Leicester system was perfect for Kante and Kante was perfect for their system. Kante sat in a double pivot, giving Mahrez and Vardy the license to freely wreak havoc on defences.
After a historic season for Leicester Kante was selected for France, representing them at Euro 2016. As the home nation, France made it to the final. They were eventually beaten by Portugal, after a wonder strike from Eder.
Kante was then snapped up for £32 million by Chelsea. He won the Premier League for the second season in a row under Antonio Conte. Under Conte, Kante operated similarly to how he did at Leicester.
Kante was selected as part of the France squad which travelled to the 2018 World cup in France. Les Bleus dominated throughout, beating Croatia 4-1 in the final. The Frenchman was immortalised with a song, which depicted why everyone loved him.
Quand le Stade de France reprend la chanson de N'Golo Kanté avec les Bleus 😍 pic.twitter.com/i6cJGQxaFI
— L'ÉQUIPE (@lequipe) September 9, 2018
He’s short, he’s nice,
He stopped Leo Messi,
But we all know he’s a cheater,
The little man had won the hearts of the footballing world. His humility and timid nature, despite his stratospheric rise, left many in awe of him.
One thing that was consistent throughout the rise of Kante was his deployment in a double pivot. At Leicester City he sat alongside Danny Drinkwater, with Conte’s Chelsea he sat alongside Nemanja Matic and with France Paul Pogba operates alongside him.
The double pivot maximises Kante’s ability to do what he does best: recover the ball. This season Kante has better statistics for recoveries and tackles per opposition touch in a double pivot.
Chelsea have since reverted back to a more familiar 4-3-3 since Conte’s departure. Under Maurizio Sarri and Frank Lampard, Kante has found himself in a midfield three. The consensus under Sarri was that Kante was being misused and under Lampard, the Frenchman has struggled with injuries.
Some may argue that Kante deployment in the midfield three has allowed him to add to his attacking game, making him less one-dimensional. But in a double pivot Kante is all but one-dimensional. Kante creates more chances in the double pivot. From those chances created, Chelsea score more goals as well.
With a player who is undoubtedly unrivalled in his position, it confuses many that Lampard doesn’t deploy Kante the double pivot. In this system, Kante has single-handedly neutralised teams.
When Lampard was appointed at Chelsea, he stated he knew exactly how Kante was going to be deployed. Many assumed this would be in a double pivot with Jorginho. But Chelsea’s record goalscorer has maintained the 4-3-3. Jorginho usually sits in the middle of the three, in a deeper role.
Kante often finds himself on the right hand side of the three. Kante in the 4-3-3 is still a great footballer, but in a double pivot he is a different beast.
It is understandable that Frank Lampard sides operate in a 4-3-3. Lampard himself played in a 4-3-3 most of his career. It is also the system he employed with Derby County, where he came so close to promotion. It is safe to say the 4-3-3 is a tried and tested system for Lampard.
If his managerial philosophy doesn’t involve a double pivot, its needless to say Kante becomes far a less effective player.
When you consider the other options at Lampard’s disposal, the 4-3-3 system is far better suited to the likes of Mason Mount, Reuben Loftus-Cheek and Ross Barkley.
Chelsea board members should definitely consider selling the Frenchman while his stock is hot.
As one of their highest earners, it makes little sense that Chelsea’s system doesn’t fit his system.
It would be similar to Roberto Firmino retaining his £180,000 per week wages at Liverpool, even if they didn’t operate with a ‘false 9’.
At 29, Kante is fast approaching the twilight years of his career and he will undoubtedly want to spend that time playing his best football.
It is without doubt, that this will be done in a double pivot role.