Real Madrid – Chelsea: N’Golo Kanté, the unexpected concern

It could only be a forced change. No, no matter how much we turned it all over the place, we couldn’t see how Thomas Tuchel could have done that: sacrifice his “Superman”, a term dating only from last December, at halftime of the most important match of the season . No, the Blues couldn’t hope to be better off without their understated superhero. And yet, reality had to impose itself on us: N’Golo Kanté was replaced at half-time in the quarter-final first leg against Real Madrid for sporting reasons (1-3). “It was a tactical change“, explained the coach of the Blues in a press conference after the fact to justify this crime of lèse-majesté.

A decision that did not surprise as much as that across the Channel. Because the “Superman” Kanté of spring 2021, best player of the final phase of the C1 2021, has too often taken on the features of Clark Kent this season. About him, we have already said everything, written everything, praised everything since his express ascent to the highest level. But, in this spring of 2022, it is undoubtedly the first time that we are worried. Because the tireless Kanté seems to be tired, precisely…

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N’Golo Kanté struggled against Toni Kroos in the quarter-final first leg against Real Madrid

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Bobos, Covid and Ramadan

Faced with the Casemiro-Kroos-Modric trident, Kanté will have seemed blunt, unable to initiate the counter-pressing so necessary for the Blues’ game. However, in February, he had reigned supreme in the midfield against Lille and still seemed well above the fray. What has happened since? Chelsea went wrong and its regulator with it. Between a still uncertain institutional situation and legitimate physical wear and tear, there are many reasons to listen to Thomas Tuchel.

For us, N’Golo is still a unique player who can bring something to the team that no one else can.recalled the German at a press conference before the big success against Southampton (0-6). This season, he had more trouble with minor injuries and illnesses. This is also one of the reasons for our irregularity, we missed him too many times“.

Last year, Kanté missed six matches. This season, he has already missed twice as much, the fault of small sores or a Covid which will have affected him twice. Didier Deschamps will not make the opposite observation, he who has only been able to count on Kanté twice since Euro 2021.

To this table, Tuchel added a personal reason: “Right now he is fasting because of his religion and beliefs. Maybe that’s another reason. It’s not the first time it’s done this, but if you don’t eat or drink during the day for days in a row, it may have an effect. He may be used to it, maybe that’s part of the explanation for why it feels like he’s not at his best given his influence last season against Real Madrid“.

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“Is he on a downward slope?”

It was enough for the birds of bad omen to come prowling around this bad patch of the middle of 31 years. Tony Cascarino has dared to put words to a secret concern of Chelsea fans. “I hate to say this, and I’m not convinced yet, but wouldn’t we have witnessed the end of N’Golo Kanté as the best, or among the best, midfielders of the last decade? , he tried on TalkSPORT.I don’t feel like it’s the same player, he looks completely burnt out. Last week, he challenged a guy who will be 37 years old in the person of Modric, he challenged Kroos and Casemiro who are not at all mobile like him, and yet he had a lot of trouble. I observed the last three months of N’Golo. Have we seen its best version? Is it on the downward slope? I hope I’m wrong because he’s a fantastic player“.

He is not the only one. Without a high-flying Kanté, Chelsea cannot hope for anything on Tuesday at the Bernabéu. Without mentioning his name on Monday, Thomas Tuchel put his finger on the X factor of this possible comeback. “We are a team that needs this athletic dimension, to be sharp, to be determined to be specialhe recalled. We didn’t manage to do it enough in the last game. It was also due to their quality and their ability to slow down the game, to control the match thanks to possession of the ball. We had trouble in the counter-pressing and in the intensity of the races […] It will take a more physical game, it will be part of the solution“.

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