N’Golo Kante looks back at our last away game at a familiar ground and forward to the one that awaits us tonight at Anfield…
N’Golo Kante’s Premier League career may only be 18 months old, but the diminutive midfielder’s impact on top-flight football in this country has been as heralded as any player new to these shores in recent times.
This is probably partly because he was relatively unknown before arriving at Leicester in the summer of 2015, and partly because of the considerable success he has enjoyed since then. No active top-flight player in this country, with 50 or more appearances, has a better win percentage.
Many of those victories came during Leicester’s sensational 2015/16 title-winning campaign. Kante played his first game back at the King Power earlier this month, having been an unused sub in the Capital One Cup fixture in September. It was an occasion to remember.
‘I spent a special season there, and met some great people, the staff, the players, the coaches, so to go back was really good,’ he tells the official Chelsea website.
‘The supporters clapped when my name was read out which was nice. I had a laugh with Ranieri before the game when he put me in a headlock! He is a good man and I learned a lot with him.
‘And then we won the game as well, so all in all it was a good day.’
Kante explains that the contrast between some aspects of life at Leicester and Chelsea is marked, on and off the pitch. The 25-year-old draws comparisons between living in London and living in Paris, as he did earlier in life as a boy growing up in France – the people, the traffic, the sights. Leicester was smaller and quieter.
When it comes to matters on the field, it’s apparent there has also been change since his move to Stamford Bridge. He identifies three key functions he performs under Antonio Conte.
‘At Leicester, the plan was to stay compact and to go forward with the ball when we counter-attacked.
‘At Chelsea we play in a different formation. The way I play here is to protect the back three, to control the balance of the game from midfield, and to find the attacking players in the team with my passing.
‘I am happy in this position and with the way I am playing it.’
That leads us on to tonight’s game at Anfield, where our hosts are aiming to avoid a fourth consecutive home defeat. Kante knows from the reverse fixture in September that there cannot be any room for complacency in the Chelsea ranks.
‘It’s another game, and we must think about ourselves, not their form. Liverpool are a good team who have players capable of scoring at any time.
‘They like to press high. If we are able to escape this pressure, we can get in good positions to counter-attack.
‘We are first now and we have good confidence, but we know there is a long way to go. We have two very important games this week against two of the closest teams to us. If we manage them well, we can go far.’