Thomas Tuchel will restore N’Golo Kante to the heart of Chelsea’s midfield
Sacked Blues boss Frank Lampard was determined to hand Kante an all-encompassing midfield assignment, often deploying him in an advanced position.
Thomas Tuchel will restore N’Golo Kante to a ball-winning defensive midfield role that underpinned Premier League titles for Leicester and Chelsea.
Kante’s ability to steal possession also provided the bedrock for France’s 2018 World Cup triumph, and now the 29-year-old will revert to that task at Stamford Bridge.
Sacked Chelsea boss Frank Lampard was determined to hand Kante an all-encompassing midfield assignment, often deploying the Paris-born grafter in an advanced position on the inside-right.
Now though, new Blues manager Tuchel insists Kante’s best position is part of a “double-six” – the German’s terminology for two sitting midfielders.
“I think he’s the strongest in the double-six, in the centre, in the heart of the game,” said Tuchel, who has already revealed he had tried many times previously to sign Kante.
“It gives him a little bit, for me, more freedom than when he plays as a single six.
“We can use his energy, the volume in his game and his ability to recuperate and recover balls everywhere on the pitch.
“He’s a guy who is a big, big helper for everybody, with a big potential, with a mentality of a water-carrier, but at the same time a world-class player who played a crucial role in the World Cup win for France.
“And that’s why it’s super-important to have him.”
Chelsea dispensed with Lampard’s services a day after the 3-1 FA Cup fourth-round win over Luton at Stamford Bridge.
The club-record goalscorer and a staunch fan favourite, Lampard’s west London status had no bearing in the Blues sticking to type with a summary dismissal.
Tuchel swept into work on Tuesday night after his arrival was confirmed, with the former Paris St Germain boss then overseeing Wednesday’s goalless Premier League draw with Wolves.
Tuchel left Mason Mount out of his first starting XI in midweek, and omitted Billy Gilmour from the squad entirely.
Chelsea’s 47-year-old new coach insisted he only wanted to ease the pressure on the Blues’ youngsters for that first match, hailing England midfielder Mount’s temperament and talent.
In offering high praise too for Scotland Under-21 star Gilmour, Tuchel did however not shut the door on a loan switch for the 19-year-old.
Lampard had precious few doubts on Gilmour’s long-term potential, and the former Rangers trainee has plenty of admiring suitors, so would not be short of loan options.
When quizzed on Mount and Gilmour, Tuchel said: “I wanted to take the weight off their shoulders.
“Of course when I told them, they said they are absolutely sure they can handle the weight.
“I have no trust issues, but I wanted to give the responsibility in this special moment to a bit more experienced players.
“There is nothing to worry about, I like what I see from Mason so far, from his personality, that I’ve known now in three days, is amazing.
“He’s such a nice guy, such a competitive guy, with such a lot of talent.
“And the most important: he leaves his heart on the pitch, and he cares for Chelsea 100 per cent.
“I’m very, very happy to have him around and I will not stop pushing him and I will not stop guiding him, and I will not stop trusting him. There’s absolutely nothing to worry about.
“For Billy the same, in a different personal moment for him.
“On Billy I have a very good impression, he’s a very strategic guy.
“A very, very high level of game understanding; very, very good in the first contact, very, very clever in positioning.
“We’ll see if he has the physical level, if he can compete in the centre of the field in the most physical league in the world, we will see that.”