Thomas Tuchel’s long-held admiration for N’Golo Kante could only have been further confirmed by the midfielder’s performance in Thursday’s win at Anfield.
Typically, no player on the pitch made more combined tackles and interceptions and in addition, it was Kante who played the long pass from which Mason Mount scored brilliantly to win the game.
Tuchel describes the importance of Kante for the rest of the season as ‘super big’ but reveals the player is still being carefully managed due to the injuries that hampered him at times, especially last season.
‘It was clear from the first second in training what this guy is capable of doing,’ the head coach says.
‘This is unbelievable and we see his intensity in the physical report after matches and we think maybe they tracked two people and put it into one sheet!
‘It is unbelievable what he delivers in terms of intensity and ball recoveries and of devotion for a group. This is world class, the highest level, and we are very happy he is in our squad. He comes from injury. He will not play now all games 90 minutes before we arrive at the international break. We have to manage him.
‘We do this now with our physical coaches and we have to take care that he arrives fit until the national break and when he comes back, this is normally the momentum where I hope we can rely on him in every game. I am very happy to have him and Kova and Jorginho in defensive midfield. This is exactly the level we need to win games at the highest level and I am super happy with all of them.’
The international break Tuchel refers to comes between our FA Cup quarter-final on 21 March and the hosting of West Brom in the Premier League two weeks later. The boss talks about players travelling to other countries during the pandemic.
‘I am absolutely worried,’ he admits, ‘because my target is to play in the Premier League and if I have players who are in quarantine then I cannot build a group that we want. This is the risk and I am absolutely worried about this situation but I am also sure that the club knows how to handle it, and if it is maybe the consequence that players can’t go then this is the consequence.
‘The situation is extraordinary and we have to adapt and we will do this as a club and we will take these decision when these decisions are taken.’