At one point during Manchester United’s 0-0 draw at Chelsea, Bruno Fernandes complained loudly to the referee.
He had just been tackled (fairly) by N’Golo Kante, but he sprang up in frustration, threw his arms in the air and shouted: “It’s always HIM!”
Fernandes wanted Kante punished. The Frenchman was getting under his skin. But referee Stuart Attwell ignored his complaints.
He was right to as well because the tackle in question was one of a game-high SEVEN tackles made by Kante – who did not commit a single foul in the match.
Kante also had a game-high four interceptions, proving a real thorn in the side of United’s main man, who did not complete a single take-on in the whole game, and helping to make sure the visitors were kept off the scoresheet.
Of course, Kante has been doing this sort of thing for years.
But he is 29 now and missed a lot of games last season with ankle, hamstring and groin injuries.
There had also been talk of Chelsea potentially cashing in on him while they could still get a big fee for him – something ex-boss Frank Lampard wanted no part of.
And it’s just as well for the Blues because the way Kante had Fernandes in his his pocket helped proved just why he remains their most important player.
The France World Cup winner missed 24 games with injuries last season – but he has missed just three in the league this season, and one of those was through suspension.
He’s played in ever Champions League game with Chelsea on course for the last eight, and captained the team twice.
His stats this season are also impressive. Only five players have made more than his 65 tackles, and he also has 48 interceptions. Only five Premier League players have more.
Real Madrid and Paris St-Germain have both had Kante on their radar for a while now. But in this form Chelsea would be mad to sell.
No-one else in the Blues midfield brings the same level of defensive awareness, pace, and toughness, something his team-mate Mateo Kovacic admitted in a recent interview with club media.
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Talking about Chelsea’s options in midfield, which include himself, Kante, Jorginho and Billy Gilmour, Kovacic said: “We have four players who can play in this position. Everybody has his own characteristics.
“We are all different and I think it’s important to have different players next to each other so one players has this good ability and the other one has that good ability. It’s good for the team.”
It was good for the team against Manchester United – and you can bet his midfield team-mates love playing with Kante because of the work he puts in.
No United player managed to dribbled past him on Sunday, and he won eight out of nine of his ground duels as well, while making one key pass and touching the ball 83 times.
Thomas Tuchel just can’t leave him out of the team right now.
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