Chelsea’s ball winning defensive midfield engine N’Golo Kante has shaped and refined the Chelsea midfield under the management of Antonio Conte. Conte has constructed Kante into a controlled, free minded ball winning midfielder with an ever-growing eye for a pass. The PFA Player of the Year (2017) has excelled with the quality around him to positively build upon the stable foundations he created for himself at Leicester City last season. In his second Premier League season he is set to pick up his second winners medal, with his second Premier League club.
Clubs across the Premier League are already undergoing adaptation to match the successful tactics revolutionized by Antonio Conte since October 2016. As many as 17 Premier League outfits have since displayed a similar formation at one point or other in-game. However, with the rare talent Kante has, will competitors ever be able to match Chelsea’s style of midfield, or will we be faced with a plethora of failed attempts to match the role the Frenchman provides.
This season Kante has currently successfully maneuvered 80 challenges, with a percentage duel win rate of 40%. Kante has attempted 193 tackles and been successful on 80 occasions, a percentage of 40%. In Leicester’s title winning season, Kante excelled in regaining possession of the ball through tackles. In 2015/16 he made a total of 261 attempted tackles and was successful 125 times, with a success rate percentage of 48%. Comparing this stat over the two Premier League seasons it is evident that Kante completed 150% of this seasons current total successful tackles last season. 45 extra. The nearest comparison to Kante in terms of completed tackles over the past two seasons, is current Everton and former Aston Villa holding midfielder Idrissa Gueye. In the past two years he is the only midfielder to challenge Kante’s incredibly successful reign as the Premier League’s strongest deep-lying ball winner. In the 2015/16 season Gueye made a total of 108 successful tackles, a tally which was beaten only by Kante at Leicester. He however, had a higher success rate of tackles won, winning 108 of a possible 221, a percentage of 49%. One higher than Kante.
In the 2016/17 season, Gueye has currently made the most successful tackles, currently completing 99 out of an attempted 211. A success rate of 47%, 7% higher than Kante this season. Tackles alone obviously don’t display the full picture. However Idrissa Gueye in comparison to N’Golo Kante is marginally better on average than the Chelsea star man. Gueye in an attacking aspect has completed 78% of his 36 take ons (28), whilst Kante has completed 75% of his 48 take ons (36).
The obvious hindrance with focusing on statistics is that they don’t always tell the full picture. This season Kante has been visibly aiming to improve his attacking and passing game, and with that he has been predominantly successful. Kante has completed 1628 general passes this season in 34 appearances at a success rate of 88%. In comparison to last season Kante completed just 1038 general passes with a success rate of 82%. He has over 60% more passes this season in comparison to last, and this adaptation may be an indication as to why his defensive duties of tackling have slightly decreased. Looking at Idrissa Gueye this season, the Everton midfielder has completed 1371 general passes this season, with a lower accuracy than Kante at 86%. In comparison to last season this is less than his total of 1400 successful general passes with an accuracy of 85%. What this contradiction between two players who have both excelled in elements and been less consistent in other areas shows is the development of that players play style.
Therefore, upon conclusion with regards to the “Kante” role, there are no exact perimeters of definition for the impact Kante will have on a game specifically. We generally know his play style, but as made evident by the stats of Idrissa Gueye at Everton, this style of play is not unique or distinctive to an individual. We could next season see the rise of another two or three midfielders bearing similar qualities of both of these holdingreally matters is the increased level of consistency, this is what is needed to label the “Kante” roll as a style of midfielder, because at the moment there are two midfielders displaying similar styles, and it could be argued statistically that Gueye is doing it better.
Gueye has slipped under the radar with regards to his similar statistics compared to Kante and has been potentially underrated by the footballing community. This new hard-working, high percentage pass completion and high pressure tackling style midfielder is currently flourishing in the Premier League, due to the competitive nature of the League, and because of this it shouldn’t be defined to an individual, not eve the instigator, as many with similar traits will grow from this and eventually better Kante and Gueye, it’s all bout the fine tuning, and this two currently lead the way, but that will inevitably change.
Post by BOTN guest writer George Didcote (@GeorgeDidcote19)