As is the case when any new manager arrives at a club, Thomas Tuchel’s appointment as Chelsea boss raised a whole host of questions relating to the current squad.
Would we finally see the best of Timo Werner? Would a reunion with his former boss ignite the career of Christian Pulisic? Is this the man to finally remind Kai Havertz how to play football?
One question which we didn’t expect to be asking ourselves less than a month into the German’s tenure is: does N’Golo Kante have a future at Chelsea?
Short of Kepa Arrizabalaga ousting Tyson Fury as the protagonist in the greatest sporting comeback of all time (alright, that may be a bit extreme, but absolutely no-one saw that coming), the main talking point surrounding Tuchel’s team selections so far has been the omission of N’Golo Kante.
Aside from Frank Lampard’s ludicrous ploy to turn him into a box-to-box midfielder, Kante has firmly established himself as one of if not the best defensive midfielder in the Premier League since his arrival on these shores in 2015.
The Frenchman was a key part of Lampard’s faltering Chelsea side prior to the Chelsea legend’s sacking, yet his only start under Tuchel so far came in the Blues’ FA Cup tie with Barnsley.
After just three cameo appearances from the bench in Tuchel’s first four Premier League games at the helm, many are beginning to question whether Kante has a future at Stamford Bridge.
Tuchel clearly isn’t afraid to experiment with his matchday team as he looks to establish the system most suited to his squad. For example, Mason Mount has already been deployed in a whole host of roles including as a false number nine, on the right of a midfielder three, as a number ten and as part of a front three.
So far, the former Paris Saint-Germain boss has kept faith with both Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic in the league, with the 1-0 victory over Tottenham the only time the pair didn’t complete the full 90 minutes in a league outing under Tuchel.
However, it shouldn’t be forgotten that Kante only recently returned from a spell on the sidelines through injury, and the one time he has been afforded a place in the starting XI was in a tricky FA Cup tie at Barnsley in which the boggy surface made for a draining evening’s work.
Not only is Kante likely being eased back into the first-team setup, the opposition Chelsea have faced since his supposed ‘dropping’ from the starting XI has been far from stellar and therefore won’t necessarily have suited his style of play.
Having been ruled out of Tuchel’s first game in charge against Wolves due to a hamstring injury, the games Kante has either been named as an unused substitute in, or has only been afforded a late run out in, have been against Burnley, Spurs, Sheffield United and Newcastle.
Now, no disrespect to the aforementioned sides, but none of them are renowned for their free-flowing, possession based style of play, and the fact Chelsea had over 65% possession in three of those outings – with the other being against Spurs where they enjoyed a measly 58% possession – proves there was no need for a ball-winning midfielder.
Tuchel’s decision to opt for Jorginho and Kovacic – two players who can get on the ball and look to make things happen – was entirely justified given the way all four games played out, and 12 points from 12 games proves it was the right call to make.
Basically, any N’Golo Kante fans who are worried the energetic midfielder could be heading for the exit door can all just calm down.
Tuchel’s appointment as Chelsea boss was scoffed at by some, but his first month at the helm has seen him transform his side’s season and produce some tactically perfect performances.
Kante has absolutely got a future at Chelsea, but player management in this season of all seasons is particularly key, and when the time is right, Kante will be a huge part of Chelsea’s side going forward.