Chelsea’s new dawn under Frank Lampard is beginning to take shape, and in many ways it resembles a sort of tribute act to the man he replaced.
Last season, Maurizio Sarri was fiercely derided by fans and pundits for his tactics and the way he used certain players in his system – notably, playing fan favourite N’Golo Kante on the left of his three-man midfield and moving teacher’s pet Jorginho into the middle in the regista role.
It did not go down well.
But in last night’s UEFA Super Cup defeat to Liverpool, Lampard pretty much set up his midfield in exactly the same way and we imagine Chelsea fans feel mightily confused right now.
After all, Lamps is ‘one of them’ through and through; a Chelsea legend who’s seemingly untouchable in the eyes of their fan-base and is viewed in an almost completely different light to his predecessor.
Well, it certainly worked.
In Istanbul, Kante was imperious, dominating the midfield and lighting up the match with his usual energy and commitment, commanding the individual stats tally for dribbles, tackles and key passes.
He dazzled James Milner with a cheeky nutmeg in the first-half and also played his part in Chelsea’s opening goal as he won the ball against Milner before surging forward.
He even had a go at marking the man-mountain Virgil van Dijk.
The fact is, Kante is genuinely incredible when going forward and it’s bizarre to think that there’s still a number of fans who want him to just stay back and defend, when he can just as easily do both.
It’s perhaps seldom known that the little Frenchman started his playing career as a winger, before moving into his more defensive-focused role that we’ve thought of since his move to Leicester.
He seemed to improve a lot under Sarri last season, with his passes and vision much better now than it was before, helping him to become a more all-round midfielder that can play his part in Chelsea’s attacking build-up.
One of the biggest reasons why Sarri was so unpopular at Chelsea last year was his stubborn approach towards Kante and Jorginho.
Fans simply did not want to see the Frenchman given a more attacking role, as they believed he was best utilised in the way he was under Antonio Conte.
And maybe that is the case, but by and large the World Cup winner is the best player in their team, and is adaptable and brilliant in whichever role he plays.
This one seems to work, but this time it’s Lampard using Kante in this way, and not Sarri.