N’Golo Kante has struggled with fitness for the past three seasons, and Potter will have to make a big decision in the coming months with a key member of staff missing.
The return of N’Golo Kante would be near the top of the list of ways for Chelsea to become a better team overnight.
It’s a bit simplistic, and the sample sizes are skewed, but Chelsea have won just two of their six games this season without Kante, while they haven’t lost with him in the lineup. Thomas Tuchel’s demise at Chelsea was largely precipitated by the Frenchman’s injury in the second half against Tottenham two games into the season.
Tuchel was then forced to use Conor Gallagher and Jorginho as makeshift pivots, falling short on tempo control, physicality, discipline, and defensive shape with the pair together. Tuchel was fired after losing to Dinamo Zagreb after failing to test different formations with Carney Chukwuemeka or Billy Gilmour.
Kante’s significance cannot be overstated. Despite missing 19 Premier League matches – nearly one in every three – during Tuchel’s 58-game tenure, he was still vital, losing only four of the 44 he did play. During that time, Chelsea won 25 of those matches while conceding 26 goals.
When compared to the 19 games he did not play, Chelsea lost seven of them, won nine, and conceded 28. The nature of the situation is that when Kante plays, even at 31, Chelsea has a much better chance of winning. When new contract talks are brought up, that is the factor that keeps circling him. Potter has a big decision to make based on limited physical time watching Kante with nine months left on his contract and the chance to negotiate a free move away in as little as three months.
He has only recently returned to training on the field, and that is on his own. Potter will need to not only manage Kante expertly but also get as much out of him as possible in order to get a good run under his belt at a potentially season-defining period, with nine matches in October alone and a busy schedule ahead of the winter World Cup, which Kante will desperately want to go to.
His recovery will not be in the hands of a familiar face for long, according to The Telegraph, as medical chief Paco Biosca is set to leave the club soon. It is part of the club’s ongoing transformation from directors and executives to players and a new manager. Nobody has escaped Todd Boehly’s regime thus far, and Biosca’s departure after 11 years of service represents another body that Kante will lose around him.
After five years at the club, only Cesar Azpilicueta and Ruben Loftus-Cheek remain from the playing group he joined in 2016. He has served four managers, including Potter, during that time, and almost everything about the club has changed. It’s one of the reasons he might feel tempted to look for greener pastures come January, when serious talks will take place, and who can blame him?
Chelsea will understand, thanks to Potter’s mastery of communication and emotional intelligence, that keeping Kante on in unhappy – or less than ideal – circumstances is just as risky as his body is. Making that man one of the club’s highest-paid players and committing to pay him is a poor business decision.
It is also stated that first-team doctor Dimitrios Kalogiannidis will serve as interim chief of the medical department until a replacement is found. Given that Chelsea chose an American medical group for Wesley Fofana’s fitness checks this summer, it’s possible that the new owners already have someone in mind, and looking after Kante will be one of the most important tasks for whoever is eventually appointed.
Biosca, on the other hand, will be missed, and one of his most notable accomplishments may be assisting Eden Hazard in remaining injury-free during his Chelsea career. The Belgian was constantly on the receiving end of kicks and tackles during his seven years in the Premier League, but he only missed 13 league games due to injury.
He has already missed 49 games since leaving in 2019, possibly demonstrating the condition and recovery Chelsea kept him in. Similar magic must be used with Kante, with or without Biosca.