N’Golo Kante produced another magnificent performance to inspire Chelsea to a 2-1 victory over Leicester at the weekend and Foxes fans must have been left with an uncomfortable sense of déjà vu. After driving Leicester to the title in 2015/16, Kante moved to Stamford Bridge and won all three Player of the Year awards as Chelsea won the Premiership. It made Kante the only player to win back-to-back Premiership titles for different clubs (unless you count Mark Schwartzer sitting on the bench for two seasons) and he established himself as the best midfielder in the Premiership. But what is remarkable is that Kante continues to improve, and he demonstrated that on Saturday.
We all knew that Kante has boundless energy, can carry the ball like a dynamo, presses like a Tasmanian devil and is a superb tackler. But now he has really sharpened his game at the other end of the pitch and can be a devastating offensive weapon as well as a defensive one. Leicester fans could only watch on in agony as Kante scored what proved to be the match winner when he drilled the ball home from all of 30 yards in agonising fashion, just evading Kasper Schmeichel’s outstretched paw. Of course, he did not shirk his defensive responsibilities and was a ferocious bundle of energy throughout. In one symbolic moment he wrestled the ball back from
Wilfried Ndidi – his replacement at the King Power Stadium and seen by many as Kante’s heir apparent – in midfield and sent his team on the counter-attack, showing that he is still the boss. But he also made some dangerous forward runs and was a constant threat to the Leicester defence.
“He played a fantastic game. He scored but overall he made a lot of good runs,” said manager Antonio Conte. “Before, a lot of people told me, ‘Yes, without the ball he has good stamina and is a good worker,’ but now with the ball he has improved a lot. I am happy for this because we are working a lot with him. Now I think he is a top player.”
Kante is just 26 years old and there is still plenty of room for improvement and that is extremely worrying for Chelsea’s rivals. Amid all the hubbub created by Man City’s forays into the transfer market and Man Utd’s strong start to the season, it is easy to forget that Chelsea have the best midfielder in the land and that he has made the difference in each of the last two seasons. Pundits praised Jose Mourinho for signing Nemanja Matic, but the Serb looked pedestrian next to Kante last season. Kante can go on to form a far better partnership with Tiemoue Bakayoko and Chelsea are looking extremely strong at the heart of the team. As for City, Fernandinho is nowhere near Kante’s level.
Chelsea shrugged off the defeat they suffered on the opening day of the season to record three consecutive wins over three very strong teams in Tottenham, Everton and Leicester, and now they are just one point behind the Manchester clubs. What’s more, Eden Hazard is still to return to the side. While Kante has established himself as the league’s best midfielder, Hazard has been its best attacking force over the last few seasons. Alexis Sanchez, Sergio Aguero and a couple of others might quibble at that, but Hazard has the medals to prove it, and when he turns it on no defender in the Premiership can get near him. Make no mistake, Chelsea are serious title contenders once again and look an amazing price at 11/2 to win it. Check out Bookmaker, a highly respected sportsbook, and you will find competitive odds. It might be worth backing Chelsea, who are the third favourites for the title and very good value at the odds being offered on them. The 33/1 on offer for Kante to win Player of the Year doesn’t look half bad either.