N’Golo Kante has been discussing his differing duties in midfield, early impressions of Frank Lampard the boss and how the team are setting expectations high in the build-up to our visit to Merseyside this lunchtime.
After struggling with niggling injuries traced all the way back to being ready for the Europa League final over six months ago, Kante is finally fully fit and firing again. He has been involved in each of our past five matches and returned to the starting line-up for the midweek victory over Aston Villa as the Blues returned to winning ways following the disappointing defeat against West Ham.
‘It was really important to win because we want to keep our position in the table and not let fifth place get close to us,’ said the Frenchman when reflecting back on that 2-1 home win three days ago.'
Tammy Abraham also came back into the team for the Villa win, playing a significant role as he opened the scoring with his 12th goal of the season before teeing up the winner for Mason Mount early in the second half. Kante believes the young England striker is a natural goalscorer, a clinical marksman he saw early on in their days working together.
‘I’m not surprised because you can see that he’s a goalscorer and he can score at any time,’ continued Kante. ‘From training with him, I just knew what he was.
‘He was scoring goals on loan and now he is doing it at Chelsea so hopefully he can just keep on going.’
Much has been made over the past couple of years of the differing midfield roles Kante is asked to play in a Chelsea shirt. Under Antonio Conte, he was deployed in a two-man midfield as part of the Italian’s 3-4-3, before Maurizio Sarri pushed him slightly further forward in his preferred 4-3-3.
Lampard has shown more flexibility in system and shape, though plenty of pundits have commented on where Kante is best suited. Now, the 28-year-old has his say.
‘It can be similar because usually we play with one midfielder behind and two in front so in this case it’s similar to what I was doing under Sarri,’ he explained. ‘Sometimes we can switch a midfielder and play with two deeper, like I play with the [France] national team, but every midfielder in this team can play every role.
‘My role can change but it’s about playing wherever the manager asks me to play. I enjoy playing further forward but what makes me most happy is to get good results for the team.’
Kante is enjoying life under Lampard, ‘a good manager’, and he believes the team can still strive to lift silverware this season with their new head coach at the helm.
‘He’s still new but he pushes all the team to work, do well and get what we want from each game and from the season,’ he said. ‘We have a good squad, good team-mates and a good spirit because we are doing quite well.
‘Finishing in the top four and staying in the Champions League is what we want. If we can do that, it will be a good achievement but hopefully we can win a trophy as well because that is what we play football for at Chelsea. For now, we are doing well but we need to keep going.’
Our next test comes away at Goodison Park today against an Everton side who parted ways with manager Marco Silva this week. Former striker Duncan Ferguson will take charge of the meeting between London and Liverpool’s Blues, with Kante well aware of how big a challenge the lunchtime kick-off will be.
‘We know they lost against Liverpool but they have good players like always,’ he said. ‘Last season we had many chances but didn’t score and we lost 2-0 so we go there now with the desire to win and try to keep the momentum of the last game, to keep winning.
‘It can be a difficult game but we are focused on ourselves to prepare in the best way and give our best to get the win.’