Unpopular Opinion - The Overrated N'Golo Kante

hmchan

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Since Leicester's title winning season in 15/16, Kante had established himself as one of the top midfielders in the world. He's phenomenal defensively - vertically covering most of the pitch and recovering the ball almost effortlessly. Despite being dropped in the knockout stage of Euro 16, he's still deemed to be a cornerstone to Leicester's miracle and he later joined Chelsea where he enjoyed another successful campaign with a league title. Whenever people talked about a defensive midfielder, the name "Kante" came to mind.

Things started to change when Conte started to deploy 3-5-2 instead of 3-4-3 in 17/18. Kante looked limited and redundant in a 3-man midfield and he offered very little to the team. The problem was further intensified when Sarri took charge in 18/19, as he adopted 4-3-3 as a regular formation and played possession football. Kante's lack of passing and antipressing ability made him incapable of playing as a 6, and he posed no threat at all playing as an 8. On many occassions, you just saw him stepping aside and hiding from responsibilities when the team had the ball.

What makes me create this thread, however, is his terrible performance this season. The pattern is so obvious that since he returned from injury, Chelsea had struggled to break down smaller sides such as Everton, Bournemouth, Southampton and Newcastle. The fluidity and creativity from midfield demonstrated in his absence had been gone whenever he's in the team. Their poor form had sustained until he was out due to another injury in February. Even Barkley and Gilmour offered more than him.

GamesPointsPoints/gameGoalsGoals/game
With Kante​
18​
19​
1.06​
21​
1.17​
Without Kante​
11​
29​
2.64​
30​
2.73​

Many appreciate Kante's strengths, but few discuss about his weaknesses. It's true that he wins a lot of possessions back but he also gives the ball away cheaply. He's technically so poor that he struggles to hold onto and bring the ball forward. Many of his passes go sideways or backwards, and put his teammates in danger as well. He looks pretty limited in the modern game which emphasizes in all-round ability.

That said, I think Kante is still pretty useful playing against a stronger side. However, if a player only finds himself useful in 5% of the games throughout the season, I personally wouldn't rate him so high. A true top player should be versatile enough to adopt in different roles and perform in different tactical setups, and Kante certainly doesn't fall into that category.
 

Dancfc

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I agree with some parts of what you say but disagree with others.

I do agree that he's a square peg in a round hole in our current set up, infact I've compared him being included when fit no matter what to LVG constantly playing Rooney. Kovacic is a lot more suited, dare I say in the present day a lot better full stop.

However I couldn't disagree more about him being overrated in his peak/when playing a system that suits him, there's a reason Leicester and then Chelsea could compete with superior midfields despite being a man less most of the time, if you're playing 442/343 and don't care about possesion stats, there's is/was no one better around to make that work (I can't work out if he's declined or his drop is solely down to the system).
 

JJ12

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He was outstanding in his peak. He appears to have regressed but is that down to him, the system or something else?
 

11101

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I think the World Cup final summed him up nicely. He's brilliant when allowed to sit back and sweep up, but under pressure his ability on the ball isn't there. France looked like they might lose until Nzonzi replaced him.
 

VP89

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It's because of his injuries I think. He just hasn't had as much the same intensity and effect he used to because of it.

Bailey (completely different position and player I know) suffered a similar fate. He was beastly for us before his ankle fracture and not quite the same since surgery.
 

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I would have him in our team in a heartbeat. He is not going to be your main man but surround him with quality and in a stable system, he becomes your most important player.
 

Oly Francis

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Who said a
I think the World Cup final summed him up nicely. He's brilliant when allowed to sit back and sweep up, but under pressure his ability on the ball isn't there. France looked like they might lose until Nzonzi replaced him.
He was sick for this game, I don't know how that can be an argument.
 

tenpoless

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"What makes me create this thread, however, is his terrible performance this season"

That's the problem. You branded a player as overrated using only one season data. Not even a full season.
 

hmchan

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I agree with some parts of what you say but disagree with others.

I do agree that he's a square peg in a round hole in our current set up, infact I've compared him being included when fit no matter what to LVG constantly playing Rooney. Kovacic is a lot more suited, dare I say in the present day a lot better full stop.

However I couldn't disagree more about him being overrated in his peak/when playing a system that suits him, there's a reason Leicester and then Chelsea could compete with superior midfields despite being a man less most of the time, if you're playing 442/343 and don't care about possesion stats, there's is/was no one better around to make that work (I can't work out if he's declined or his drop is solely down to the system).
Fair point. I don't understand Sarri's and Lampard's obssession in Kante either, especially when Jorginho-Kovacic-Mount is clearly the better combination in midfield. Kante gets to play every minute when he's fit, and he's never taken off even when the team is desperate for a goal looking for extra creativity.
 

11101

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Who said a


He was sick for this game, I don't know how that can be an argument.
Players having a good game don't get hooked at 55 minutes. He had the least touches of any player on the pitch bar the Croatia keeper. As a central midfielder he had less touches than Hugo Lloris. He was awful.
 

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I would never criticize Phil Jones for not being a world class striker, and I wouldn't criticize Kante for not being a great #8. Kante is a #6. Always has been and always will be. So in the formation that they play, you either play him in the #6 or don't play him at all. Problem then is, what do you do with Jorginho? For me, the answer is simple. Stop playing a 4-3-3 and make a slight adjustment to a 4-2-3-1. It would be similar to Pirlo and Gattuso with Mount playing the part of Kaka (no I did not just compare Mount to Kaka so settle down). As for the stats that were provided, Kante was out for much of the start of the season, and Abraham has been out for much of the second half. I think you are putting to much of the blame on Kante and not enough on the fact that they have been missing their top goal scorer...
 

Eriku

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Players having a good game don't get hooked at 55 minutes. He had the least touches of any player on the pitch bar the Croatia keeper. As a central midfielder he had less touches than Hugo Lloris. He was awful.
You didn’t respond to the point made? He had gastroenteritis during the final.
 

11101

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You didn’t respond to the point made? He had gastroenteritis during the final.
:lol: when he said sick i thought he meant the slang for good.

I didn't know he was actually sick.
 

UnrelatedPsuedo

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Fair point. I don't understand Sarri's and Lampard's obssession in Kante either, especially when Jorginho-Kovacic-Mount is clearly the better combination in midfield. Kante gets to play every minute when he's fit, and he's never taken off even when the team is desperate for a goal looking for extra creativity.
It’s almost as if they both feel he’s their best midfielder and know more than anyone here.
 

hmchan

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He was outstanding in his peak. He appears to have regressed but is that down to him, the system or something else?
For me it's a bit of everything really. The system further exposes Kante's weaknesses, which are his problems originally. The injury doesn't do him favor either as his playstyle requires him to be fully fit to perform.
 

do.ob

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"What makes me create this thread, however, is his terrible performance this season"

That's the problem. You branded a player as overrated using only one season data. Not even a full season.
The sample size is also so small that it's not really reliable.

For example his missed games were against Norwich, Burnley (twice), Sheffield, Wolves, Brighton, Newcastle, Watford, Spurs, Bournemouth and Everton. The average position of these teams at the time Chelsea faced them was 13th. He's also counting some results where Kante didn't fully feature, e.g. West Ham, where he only came on after an hour, after Chelsea were already down a goal and both games against United, where he was subbed off after 12 minutes on a 0:0 score line and the other one where he came on after 70 minute and a 0:3 score line.
 

Wednesday at Stoke

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I don't think its humanly possible to sustain his level of energy over too many seasons. He was good for two seasons, one at Leicester, one at Chelsea and won back to back PL titles. He might never recapture that physical level again.
 

hmchan

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"What makes me create this thread, however, is his terrible performance this season"

That's the problem. You branded a player as overrated using only one season data. Not even a full season.
I feel Kante is overrated based on his continued disappointing performance since 17/18. This season just further magnifies his problems and I feel it's time to create this thread.
 

hmchan

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I would never criticize Phil Jones for not being a world class striker, and I wouldn't criticize Kante for not being a great #8. Kante is a #6. Always has been and always will be. So in the formation that they play, you either play him in the #6 or don't play him at all. Problem then is, what do you do with Jorginho? For me, the answer is simple. Stop playing a 4-3-3 and make a slight adjustment to a 4-2-3-1. It would be similar to Pirlo and Gattuso with Mount playing the part of Kaka (no I did not just compare Mount to Kaka so settle down). As for the stats that were provided, Kante was out for much of the start of the season, and Abraham has been out for much of the second half. I think you are putting to much of the blame on Kante and not enough on the fact that they have been missing their top goal scorer...
For me Kante has never been a 6 and he rarely plays in that role. Throughout his career he plays in a more advanced role which makes the best out of him, i.e. vertical coverage and winning the ball high up the pitch. Playing a deeper role actually refrains him from doing the same as he would have been easily caught out of position.

4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3, the problem persists. Jorginho is always the holding one who stays back given his playstyle. That leaves Kante with the box-to-box role and his inability of bringing the ball forward is again exposed.
 

youngrell

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His play style was always going to be a short term thing, IMO. It was incredibly intense and very hard to maintain, especially when you've started to achieve things and the hunger may no longer be quite the same.

He was always limited on the ball and why I thought he was a tad overrated even when he was making super human recoveries each game for a few seasons. People (including Frank Lampard) were calling him the best midfielder in the world, which was just ridiculous.
 

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He’s awesome. If we could add him and Sancho I’d put good money on us fighting for the league. He’s certainly a world class player in his position.
 

hmchan

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His play style was always going to be a short term thing, IMO. It was incredibly intense and very hard to maintain, especially when you've started to achieve things and the hunger may no longer be quite the same.

He was always limited on the ball and why I thought he was a tad overrated even when he was making super human recoveries each game for a few seasons. People (including Frank Lampard) were calling him the best midfielder in the world, which was just ridiculous.
Well, you don't expect Lampard comes out and says "Kante is overrated and limited on the ball" though, do you? :angel:
 

youngrell

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Well, you don't expect Lampard comes out and says "Kante is overrated and limited on the ball" though, do you? :angel:
Sorry, I should have mentioned that this was while Lampard was working as a pundit before being Chelsea boss.
 

Dancfc

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I would never criticize Phil Jones for not being a world class striker, and I wouldn't criticize Kante for not being a great #8. Kante is a #6. Always has been and always will be. So in the formation that they play, you either play him in the #6 or don't play him at all. Problem then is, what do you do with Jorginho? For me, the answer is simple. Stop playing a 4-3-3 and make a slight adjustment to a 4-2-3-1. It would be similar to Pirlo and Gattuso with Mount playing the part of Kaka (no I did not just compare Mount to Kaka so settle down). As for the stats that were provided, Kante was out for much of the start of the season, and Abraham has been out for much of the second half. I think you are putting to much of the blame on Kante and not enough on the fact that they have been missing their top goal scorer...
It's not just a positional issue it's a style issue aswell.

To get the best out of him we'll have to completely abandon our new style of play which suits all our elite prospects and other current top players like Kova down to the ground.

As good as Kante is/has been, is effectively throwing away the future we're trying to build for ourselves for a near 29 year old who's main attribute is his engine worth it?
 

el3mel

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"He's having a terrible season, so this means he has always been overrated player in all his career" trend never stops being funny.
 

VorZakone

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Who said a


He was sick for this game, I don't know how that can be an argument.
Only a French newspaper claimed that. Not Deschamps or Kante himself. I also find it hard to believe Deschamps would take that risk in a WC final.
 

flappyjay

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Do some people even watch him regularly? You would think kante was hopeless on the ball. Fair point he is not a great passer of the ball but he is really good with it in tight spaces. He also class at carrying the ball. The sarri season was average by his standards and this season he has had a few injuries. But from some of the things said you would think he still wouldn't walk into may top midfields
 

edcunited1878

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For me Kante has never been a 6 and he rarely plays in that role. Throughout his career he plays in a more advanced role which makes the best out of him, i.e. vertical coverage and winning the ball high up the pitch. Playing a deeper role actually refrains him from doing the same as he would have been easily caught out of position.

4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3, the problem persists. Jorginho is always the holding one who stays back given his playstyle. That leaves Kante with the box-to-box role and his inability of bringing the ball forward is again exposed.
Kante is a defensive midfielder, plain and simple. When Leicester won, he was a defensive midfielder paired next to Danny Drinkwater. They controlled the middle part of the pitch because they defended every part of the pitch in front of the backline and retrieved the ball and played it in behind as their shape was made for a counterattack. Their partnership was so unique, different, but brutally effective. Kante was the defensive midfielder when France won the WC next to Pogba and another CM, Matuidi, Tolliso, or N'Zonzi.

When Kante was deployed as an 8 who had more responsibility in supporting the attack and penetrating the right channel going forward most recently at Chelsea, he is limited. But he was not the same player because his strengths were not optimized when assuming a larger role as an all around central midfielder.

Kante at his peak was the best defensive midfielder across Europe next to Fernandinho, Casemiro, and I'm sure I'm forgetting a few. Even Ander Herrera in the pure defensive center mid position was very, very good. So I don't agree that Kante was overrated. He was a top class player for a few years and then injuries and mismanagement caused him to decline. Would never view him as an orthodox central midfielder. He's a defensive central midfielder, not a DLP, not an all around central mid, not an attacking central player/10, etc.
 

SAFMUTD

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He’s being totally wasted in Chelsea’s set up, but again if a player level just fits one formation, that doesnt speak great about him.
 

SadlerMUFC

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For me Kante has never been a 6 and he rarely plays in that role. Throughout his career he plays in a more advanced role which makes the best out of him, i.e. vertical coverage and winning the ball high up the pitch. Playing a deeper role actually refrains him from doing the same as he would have been easily caught out of position.

4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3, the problem persists. Jorginho is always the holding one who stays back given his playstyle. That leaves Kante with the box-to-box role and his inability of bringing the ball forward is again exposed.
Kante didn't start playing further up until the last few years. At leicester they played a 4-4-2 with 2 midfielders who pretty much stayed put. With France he was also the midfielder furthest back. And in his first year at Chelsea he was indeed the DM. So what can we learn from these 3 teams? Play him as a DM and win titles...
 

SadlerMUFC

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It's not just a positional issue it's a style issue aswell.

To get the best out of him we'll have to completely abandon our new style of play which suits all our elite prospects and other current top players like Kova down to the ground.

As good as Kante is/has been, is effectively throwing away the future we're trying to build for ourselves for a near 29 year old who's main attribute is his engine worth it?
There's definitely room for rotation with Kovacic, which would make it more of a 4-3-3. Gilmour has also looked really good in the games he's played. But if it were up to me, Kante would start all the big games as well as another 10-15 games. So give him 20-25 starts and have him come off the bench to hold a lead...
 

RooneyLegend

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Do some people even watch him regularly? You would think kante was hopeless on the ball. Fair point he is not a great passer of the ball but he is really good with it in tight spaces. He also class at carrying the ball. The sarri season was average by his standards and this season he has had a few injuries. But from some of the things said you would think he still wouldn't walk into may top midfields
That's because British football fans are all about raking 40 yard passes and long range shots. Ability with the ball at your feet isn't all that important to them.

Kanye is far from being overrated, he'd be perfect for our side. For reasons I don't understand Sarri tried to turn him into an attacking midfielder and Frank has t really remedied the situation.
 

Dancfc

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There's definitely room for rotation with Kovacic, which would make it more of a 4-3-3. Gilmour has also looked really good in the games he's played. But if it were up to me, Kante would start all the big games as well as another 10-15 games. So give him 20-25 starts and have him come off the bench to hold a lead...
While i do get that in theory it would be difficult to justify giving him that role.

Despite his drop off he will still command a lot of money (well whatever the post covid market meaning of a lot is) and have a lot of teams chasing him, it doesn't really make sense for any party to relegate such an asset to that type of role.
 

Maluco

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I think he is a victim of the inflexibility of many modern managers, who insist on bringing in their own players and own ideas instead of working to shape something with the players they have.

Sarri and Conte are two of the worst culprits of this, in particular, the former.

If you come to a side with one of the best ball carrying forwards in world football and one of the best sweeping DM’s in world football, you try and shape your system to accommodate them. You don’t force them to play your way and spend a fortune trying to find players that will play the only way you know how. Players who are then discarded by the next regime.

The very best coaches are ones that can be flexible and build around what they have. That’s why Leicester worked so well. They were a smaller team and the better players were used in a system that was tailored to them , so even the likes of Drinkwater and Okazaki were utilized in roles that maximized their strengths.

He is a great player, but he has been a victim of managers who were unwilling to utilize him properly over a long period of time and it has inevitably ruined his confidence.
 

SadlerMUFC

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While i do get that in theory it would be difficult to justify giving him that role.

Despite his drop off he will still command a lot of money (well whatever the post covid market meaning of a lot is) and have a lot of teams chasing him, it doesn't really make sense for any party to relegate such an asset to that type of role.
Relegate to that type of role? I'm not following here. We are talking about a midfielder who is approaching his 30's, whose biggest asset is his engine, and is starting to have a lot of injuries. This should be an automatic if you are going to get much more out of him. Scholes and Giggs didn't have the careers they had because they started every game once they got in their 30's. SAF was smart with them and saved them for the big games. "Relegating" Kante is 20-25 starts is exactly what he needs regardless of whether he likes it or not...