He is a hooligan, stealing the ball from kids in the street: why N'Golo Kanté became the best football player of the EPL

1 May 2017

A few days ago had happened a big event – the best football player of this season is not the super-goal-scorer and a star of magazines, but the shy player who is playing in the center of the field.

N'Golo Kanté became the best football player of the EPL

N'Golo Kanté who looks like the ordinary boy having 169 cm, is spending his second season but the award has found the hero only now. The professional football association of football players recognized Kanté to be the best football player of the Premier League though we knew about it much earlier. Last summer many asked a question, how well will he manage to spend the second season in England and in club of a higher class than Leicester. But the Frenchman could play even better, having finally proved his talent.

To win such an award to the center midfielder is very difficult, as usually the attacking players get all the tasty cake. Last time this award was given not to the forward in a season 2008/09 when Ryan Giggs had spent the outstanding championship with Manchester United. In the 21st century John Terry (04/05) and Steven Gerrard (05/06) became the best players. In all other seasons the award was given only to leaders of the attacks and that isn't always fair. Therefore it’s getting more and more surprising that such kid and shy person had achieved worldwide recognition, as it is necessary to demonstrate absolutely outstanding football. And Kanté is good at it. The most remarkable thing is that his game manner is very simple, but it is so delightful. Sometimes everything comes to him so easily that people even say that time to time, when he is free from playing football, he saves the world as a superman.

"Actually, my life is the same, as in France. I play football and then I go home. Next day is a football training, the house, rest, and so I go round in circles", - N'Golo admits. Modesty and simplicity of this man only improves his game when he imperturbably steals the ball from all stars of the English Premier League. It looks so as if "the hooligan steals the ball from helpless kids in the street", - Brian Read, the journalist of Daily Mirror finds such comparison. Kanté 's performance surprises all that even Eden Hazard after the match with Arsenal admitted that "in the field there are two twin brothers Kanté who are just everywhere". There is also a belief that if Kanté 's team owns a ball about 80% of time, he will begin to steal the ball from his partners. Restless man.

Where Kanté is – there is a victory

Where Kanté is – there is a victory. It is possible to say so after two champion's titles in a row (well, almost two) of his teams in the EPL. For two seasons with Leicester and Chelsea of Kanté has lost only 8 matches that it is less, than at any teams of England for the same period of time. Last season Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez got all the main awards, but only the current campaign showed how important Kanté 's personality is. Without him all structure of Leicester had broken, but became monolithic at Chelsea. This is a true art - to steal and intercept balls, to foresee each movement of the opponent, to feel any danger and to prevent it in due time. It would seem to be so easy but nobody is able to cope with these tasks as Kanté does.

Updates of statistical data after each EPL round impress more and more. Now we are reading with a great delight about ten stolen balls by small Frenchman in one match, and with smaller interest we calculate how many groundmoves in 90 minutes Eden Hazard or Alexis Sánchеz have made. We have already got used to thee deeds of forwards, but to enjoy a defensive play of the center midfielder is still a rare pleasure. Kanté became the real embodiment of philosophy of Antonio Conte in which tactical literacy, pragmatism, and organized nature of game dominates. The probable victory of Chelsea in the EPL is built on these principles therefore such player as Kanté, but not Azar, Ibrahimovic or other worthy forwards can become the best player.

N'Golo began to play

Little N'Golo this season had added in many components though it seemed that nobody expect anything more from him. Antonio Conte noted more than once that Kanté too often plays using simple cross-field balls, and they slow down the attacks. Really, it was very noticeable in Leicester when after the tacking regularly goes the pass to the closest partner though it was possible to play more risky. That is why in Chelsea they demand something different from him - both development of the attacks with vertical passes, and movements forward. The Frenchman quickly understood everything and is following instructions of the coach.

And now N'Golo began to play the attack more often - the quantity of short passes averages to 38,9 for a match against 24,49 earlier though by the created chances in Leicester the situation was a little bit better (0,81), than now (0,62). He started to play long balls, making about 4-5 exact distant passes for a match, and in Leicester there were less than 2; he began to shoot more at the goal (0,84 against 0,57), and also the accuracy of shots (41% for 28%) has improved. Surprisingly, but as for the defensive actions, statistics worsened in comparison with last season. It concerns: tackling (3,4, was 4,7), intercepts (2,41, was 4,22), blocking of shots (0,12, was 0,30), quantity of fouls (1,6, was 1,2). Concerning the time when he was playing with Leicester the figures became worse but they are still the best among all holding and center midfielders of the current season.

The demonstration of the fact how often Kanté began to play vertically short and long passes doesn't slow down the attack of team any more, and only contributes to its fast development.

"To become an excellent player, he needs only the skills of the leader", - Claude Makelele admits. Really, there are no limits to perfection therefore Kanté still can develop as in respect of game skills and character. He is very kind and shy man. He never complains at all, neither of referees, nor of partners or anybody at all, but honestly does what he has to do. But he listens to all, especially to the coach and absorbs everything in order to study and progress. Antonio Conte has already helped him to become better with the ball and he is much more effective now and he will teach him to demonstrate his leadership skills on the field. Then Kanté will surely become the excellent player, though even without them he doesn't cease to surprise all, working for himself and for that man.

Read also: Francesco Baranca: at least five "strange" matches are played in Spain in each football round

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