Maurizio Sarri was frank in his criticism of N’Golo Kante after the midfielder’s part in Chelsea’s woeful display against Tottenham.
Spurs won 3-1 at Wembley to bring Sarri’s 18-game unbeaten start to an emphatic end, and the mechanics of Chelsea’s midfield came under particular scrutiny.
Kante has been playing in a more advanced role than the one in which he won two Premier League titles and a World Cup in order to make space for Jorginho, Sarri’s £51m signing from former club Napoli, at the base of midfield.
There have been calls among fans and pundits for Kante to move back to a deeper role, but speaking ahead of Chelsea’s Europa League group L meeting with PAOK, Sarri insisted it was up to Kante to improve in his current position.
“I want to play a centre midfielder with a very technical player. For me the centre midfielder is Jorginho or (Cesc) Fabregas. I don’t want Kante in this position.
“Kante in the last match wanted to solve the match after the first 15 minutes, but in the wrong way. He lost the position, he attacked too much the other box. And I think this one is not one of the best characteristics of Kante. It was only a reaction to the difficulties.”
Sarri suggested the Kante must learn to balance his forays forward with the need to protect his defence.
“Kante has to stay near to Jorginho, especially when the ball is on the other side,” Sarri said. “It depends on the action. If the ball is on the left, we have (Marcos) Alonso, (Eden) Hazard, (Mateo) Kovacic, (Ross) Barkley, so in that situation he has to stay very close to Jorginho.”
Eden Hazard will miss out on the match against the Greek side with an ankle injury, and although he is expected to be back for the west London derby against Fulham this weekend, Sarri sounded a warning over his condition.
“I am worried because 25 days ago he had a back injury,” Sarri said. “Now an ankle. He has lost a lot of training. It’s normal at the moment he isn’t at the top of his physical condition.”
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