- Match Analysis
Chelsea were dealt a huge blow during the international break with the news that midfield machine Ngolo Kante could miss up to six matches after sustaining a hamstring manager on duty with France.
The 26 year-old is one of the most important players in Antonio Conte’s team, and could miss their next two Champions League matches as well as the crucial Premier League clash with Manchester United on November 5th.
Conte already has Alvaro Morata’s injury to deal with and will now have to stretch his squad to it’s limit to fill the gap left by Kante. The former Leicester City man is known for his high energy style and work-rate, with many saying that he effectively does the work of two men in midfield.
So, with Kante set to miss 6 matches, how do Chelsea go about replacing him? We look at some of their options below.
Danny Drinkwater formed a solid midfield partnership with Kante at Leicester City in their famous 2015/16 title winning season. He has been injured himself more or less ever since making the move to Stamford Bridge late in the summer transfer window, but is expected to return after the international break.
A natural defensive midfielder, he would be the like for like replacement for Kante and could slot into a three man midfield alongside Fabregas and Bakayoko. However, can Conte trust him to fill such a big role just yet? Is he fit enough? It would be a big ask for the English international so early on in his Chelsea career, although if he is to justify his £35million price tag then now would be the perfect time.
Chelsea strengthened their defensive options in the summer, so Conte could be tempted to move David Luiz forward into Kante’s position and play a back three of Gary Chill, Antonio Rudiger and Cesar Azpilicueta. Luiz has played in midfield before and proven to be a competent option in that position.
This may be the most likely option, although it would mean Bakayoko and Fabregas having to take on more defensive roles as well in Kante’s absence. Luiz would not be able to put in the same type of shift as the Frenchman, although his skill on the ball and defensive abilities are up to the standard required.
It would take something special for Conte to move away from the 3-5-2 formation. He tried playing 4-4-2 when he first came to England, but he soon reverted back and most of the Premier League then preceded to follow suit – such has been it’s success.
Against weaker opposition though, a midfield two of Bakayoko and Fabregas could work. Both are accustomed to playing in the deep position – Fabregas spent much of his Arsenal career there – and it would give them more options in attack. However, against teams with quality players who can play between the lines it could see them exposed in defence.
Chelsea have arguably the best pool of reserve and youth players in the world. They consistently dominate in almost all categories below the first team, and have a number of players who probably feel they deserve a chance for the first team – as Charly Musonda publicly pointed out this week.
The Blues have a bad reputation for not giving their youngsters enough chances, but an injury to an important player like Kante could be what it takes to open the door. Welsh teenager Ethan Ampadu fits the bill and made his first team debut in the Carabao Cup against Nottingham Forest last month. Jacob Maddox and George McEachran are other options Conte could look to.
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