Kante told to improve tactically as part of Sarri-ball switch at Chelsea

The World Cup-winning midfielder has been shifted from a holding role this season, with his manager looking for him to continue learning in that post

Maurizio Sarri has challenged N’Golo Kante to improve tactically after being asked to fill a different role for Chelsea this season.

Despite being a two-time Premier League champion and World Cup winner as a holding midfielder, the 27-year-old has had to alter his game under a new boss this season.

The introduction of ‘Sarri-ball’ at Stamford Bridge has seen Chelsea adopt a different system, one which is intended to see them dominate possession from front to back.

Kante has been encouraged to get further forward within that project, and provided the assist for Pedro to open the scoring in his most recent outing against Fulham.

Questions have been asked of the positional tinkering, though, and Sarri concedes that it will take some getting used to.

He told reporters of Kante after a 2-0 derby win over the Cottagers: “I think he played very well. He defended very well.

“He needs, I think, to improve a little more from the tactical point of view, but it’s natural.

“In the national team he usually plays with the two midfielders. Last season, sometimes with two midfielders and sometimes with three but in the same position. So I think it’s normal he needs to improve.

“Today, better [positioning], I think. When the ball was on the other side of the pitch, better.

“I remember only one mistake in the first half. With the ball on the other side, he has to stay very close to Jorginho. Otherwise it’s a big problem for us.

“Jorginho can cut out passes from the opposition, but he’s not very strong at closing the open spaces.”

While looking for more from Kante, Sarri is delighted with the contribution being made by Ruben Loftus-Cheek over recent weeks.

The England international has recorded a hat-trick against BATE in the Europa League, a first Premier League goal of the season versus Burnley and a second after stepping off the bench against Fulham.

“In the last three weeks, he’s solved me problems,” said Sarri.

“I was really very happy after the last match in the Europa League because I think he played the best performance from the tactical point of view. 

“I was really very happy. Today I saw [Mateo] Kovacic a bit tired, so I put him on the pitch without problems. I was sure about his impact in the match.”

Victory over Fulham has lifted Chelsea into third spot in the Premier League table, seven points adrift of leaders Manchester City.

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