Maurizio Sarri proved right over N’Golo Kante after Real Madrid masterclass for Chelsea

Chelsea: Tuchel says Mount Mason is 'full package'

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It would be fair to say Maurizio Sarri was not the most popular Chelsea manager of his time but it would be a disservice to discredit his work at Stamford Bridge, particularly when assessing his use of N’Golo Kante. The World Cup winner became a taboo subject during the Italian’s reign and was one of the reasons supporters struggled to warm to Sarri.

That’s because he refused to play Kante as the No 6 having brought Jorginho with him from Napoli.

Kante was widely regarded as the best holding midfielder in the world on the back of winning two Premier League titles and the World Cup in France while screening the back four as the deepest-lying midfielder.

So when Sarri ripped up the script and tried to reinvent the former Leicester man as a box-to-box midfielder who could influence the game at both ends of the field, some were alarmed by his radical line of thinking.

But there was method to his madness. Sarri wanted a ball-playing technical player (Jorginho) at the base of his midfield.

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In front of that, Kante’s athleticism, reading of the game, interceptions, and nous off the ball could benefit the team higher up the field.

Yet still, Sarri was scrutinised for the decision despite Kante admitting that he enjoyed the role.

“I like this [more advanced] position. Prefer it? It depends on the game, but I enjoy it. I’m with the manager, and I’m enjoying the way I’m playing now,” Kante said at the time.

“It is a position I used to play when I was in France. I’m enjoying participating more in the offensive positions to change the game. I am enjoying it.”

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Now Thomas Tuchel is operating with the same midfield set-up as Sarri. Jorginho holds and dictates play in possession, while Kante is off his leash and roaming free in the opposition half.

Chelsea’s opener last night against Real Madrid was all Kante’s doing.

He received the ball on the half-turn, played a one-two before darting into space and playing in Kai Havertz.

The German then hit the bar with a scoop before Timo Werner headed in.

Kante’s involvement was also decisive for the killer second too.

His desire and ability to snuff out Real Madrid saw him rob them of possession on the edge of their box.

He then played in Christian Pulisic who teed up Mason Mount to kill the game.

The 30-year-old was also fasting for Ramadan last night yet his energy levels were still far superior to anyone else on the pitch.

Chelsea’s second goal in particular was the perfect example of precisely why Sarri used Kante in a more advanced midfield role.

As his former assistant manager Gianfranco Zola once explained to beIN SPORTS: “Kante is not a sitting midfielder.”

Speaking after his departure from Stamford Bridge, the Blues legend explained exactly why Kante had more to his game than protecting the defence.

He added: “Although he has always played in a midfield two, at Leicester and in his first two years at Chelsea, at Leicester he was playing with [Danny] Drinkwater, who was the sitting one and Kante was moving around. He was free to go sideways, backwards, whatever he wanted.

“And it was the same at Chelsea when [Nemanja] Matic was the sitting one and Kante was doing the same job.

“We spoke with Kante about this and he was very happy to play the position because he liked the position.”

Forget Europa League glory and the top-four finish, helping unlock this version of Kante may have been Sarri’s greatest achievement at Chelsea.

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