N’Golo Kante’s latest injury concern should see Thomas Tuchel shift Chelsea’s transfer priority

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N’Golo Kante has emerged as an injury doubt for Chelsea’s Premier League opener against Crystal Palace on Saturday.

Head coach Thomas Tuchel confirmed in his pre-match press conference at Cobham on Friday afternoon that his mercurial midfielder sustained an unspecified problem in the UEFA Super Cup final win over Villarreal in Belfast in midweek.

Kante was playing one of his usual god-level games in Northern Ireland before he was taken off midway through the second half. We assumed it was simply to rest him ahead of the weekend and Palace but seemingly, it wasn’t.

There were no visible signs of discomfort for the World Cup and Champions League winner Kante, who has had a near full pre-season under his belt.

Kante returned to Cobham a fortnight after the first cohort trundled through the doors of the training complex, owing to France’s early exit from EURO 2020 earlier this summer and having his mandatory break during the summer.

Tuchel eased his talisman back into action, he hadn’t played more than 45 minutes across pre-season in friendlies having got his first run-out against Arsenal at the Emirates in the Mind Series win in north London.

Kante is borderline superhuman anyway with his frankly ludicrous energy and fitness levels. We often hear Tuchel say having one Kante on the pitch is like having two players considering how gets around and chews up the ground.

But there is now a serious fear that Kante’s body is starting to feel the effects.

After winning the Premier League title with Leicester City and securing his move to Chelsea in 2016, the midfielder barely missed a game for three and a half years.

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But his hamstrings are becoming of particular concern. He has suffered four hamstring-related issues in the past three seasons. He missed six games last season because of hamstring problems and the season before, lost nine games because of it.

Coupled with other muscle injuries, since the start of the 2019/20 season he has been ruled out of 31 games.

With 38 games in a season you could argue that is not a particularly bad injury record but for a player who is as crucial to a team as Kante is, it has to be a worry and now there are doubts over his participation for the Premier League opener on Saturday.

“We have some issues with N’Golo Kante , we need to sort it out, from the game. It is from the final,” Tuchel said on Friday.

“Physically it was the worst thing that could happen to us in the stages we are in right now, to play 120 minutes.

“For tomorrow [Saturday] we have to be careful, the decisions are not made yet, who starts, who do we push over the line? The recommendation is for some to do 60-70 minutes, who do we push to do another 90. It is hard to predict the physical demands from tomorrow’s game and the decisions are not made yet.

“We will take our time and make the latest decisions tomorrow. We have one more night, this is maybe the most important thing to have a good sleep to eat good, drink good and overcome some difficult moments tomorrow physically.”

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Having secured the signing of Romelu Lukaku, Tuchel is now expected to turn his attention to bringing Jules Kounde to the club from Sevilla, the French centre half is of interest to Chelsea.

But with another injury doubt hanging over Kante, should Tuchel perhaps be looking to bolster his midfield? No-one can replace Kante, there is no other Kante on the planet, but there are some options there.

The Blues have long been linked with a move for Declan Rice but that certainly looks next to impossible this season with West Ham having no need to sell their best player.

Another option is Aurelien Tchouameni, the Monaco midfielder who has also been heavily linked to Chelsea.

The Monaco midfielder started 36 of 38 games for Monaco in Ligue 1 last season and only missed the other two matches because of suspension.

Among those who played 1000 minutes last season in the French top flight, only three players performed better than Tchouameni’s 6.06 tackles and interceptions per 90.

He was among the top 20 for successful pressures per 90 (7.06), something that Kante absolutely excels at.

Is Tchouameni a direct Kante replacement? No, no-one is. There is only one N’Golo Kante. But with another niggling injury for the Frenchman, should his compatriot jump to the top of the transfer list for the Blues instead of another French star in Kounde?

Source by Football London

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