Pat Nevin explained to the Chelsea Chronicle he was surprised that Thomas Tuchel had somehow managed to make N’Golo Kante even better.
There were very few chinks in the Frenchman’s armour before Tuchel arrived in January; he is virtually bulletproof now the pair have spent half a season together.
Kante’s main Achilles heel was the slight concern over his fitness. Not his energy or desire to run, but the minor injuries that have crept in over the past few years.
Now even they have disappeared into the dirt, as the 30-year-old looks in his prime physical condition.
He concluded the campaign a champion of Europe and one of the favourites for the Ballon d’Or.
Due to France’s exit from the European Championships, those odds were slashed somewhat, yet it didn’t detract from the midfielder’s mighty return to form.
Nevin’s nod to Tuchel
Nevin owed Kante’s revival to Tuchel, who can be credited for plenty of Chelsea’s transformations over the past few months.
“I think he’s (Tuchel) actually made N’Golo Kante a better player, which I thought was impossible,” said the ex-Blues winger.
“I’ve never felt we should have him as the deepest midfielder all the time. I think he’s got more to give than that.
“Allowing N’Golo to break forward from that deeper position is what I’ve always wanted.
“There was a period at the end of the season where N’Golo was the best player in the world. He really was the best, he was doing things no one else could do.”
Tuchel has managed to unlock the next level of Kante by playing him as a double pivot within a midfield duo, largely alongside Jorginho or Mateo Kovacic.
It means his defensive duties are shared, therefore allowing him to add to the attacks as well.
His goal and assists tally may not have shot up, however, Chelsea’s thrust and pressing are certainly more incisive.
Check out Pat Nevin’s new book, The Accidental Footballer, a memoir of his journey from talented schoolboy to Chelsea legend.