Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel is happy to finally have the opportunity to work with N’Golo Kante, a midfielder who “makes teams better”.
Since Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard in charge at Stamford Bridge last month, Kante has made only two substitute appearances because of a hamstring injury.
However, he was considered fit enough to start the FA Cup match with Barnsley on Thursday and Tuchel spoke about the qualities of the French international, who was closely linked to Paris Saint-Germain during the time of the German coach in charge of the Ligue 1 team.
“I think N’Golo fits into any manager’s plans on the planet. I was desperate to have him in my teams [in the past],” Tuchel told reporters.
I’m so glad to have him back again. We put him against Tottenham on the pitch and he supported everybody on the pitch, which is what he does.
Having this guy live, seeing how he works, how humble he is, the quality he offers the team. I am so humbled that I have to be his mentor. Tomorrow he’ll start.
In all competitions this term, Kante has made 26 appearances, 19 of which have come in the Premier League.
In particular, the former Leicester City player ranks high for interceptions – only six players in the division who have played at least 13 games have managed more than Kante’s average of 2.32 per 90 minutes.
However, with all the undoubted consistency of the midfielder, keeping him fit is now the greatest challenge for Tuchel.
“I’m not concerned about any more injuries because I feel the support and quality of the medical department,” he said. “We can handle and take care of his minutes and workload. I’m not worried about his efficiency.
What I see on the pitches here in Cobham is, how can I put it, what I’ve been expecting, and I’ve been expecting a lot because I’m a big fan of it.
“I can see the input he has on teams. He makes teams better. He has the mentality of a water carrier but on such a high level.”
At Wednesday’s pre-match news conference, Tuchel also reported that Hakim Ziyech will play a role against Barnsley, the Championship team.