Leboeuf says 'terrific' Chelsea player will feature more frequently in future for Tuchel

Frank Leboeuf told ESPN that he believed N’Golo Kante was still the first-choice midfielder for Chelsea despite rarely featuring under Thomas Tuchel.

When asked what he thought had gone wrong with his fellow countryman, Lebouef suggested Kante’s problems were purely physical at this point.

“I think they are more cautious about making a decision if he will play or not,” said the former Chelsea defender.

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“He was injured. He’s a terrific player, I think he will play soon. I don’t think Jorginho and (Mateo) Kovacic will play all the games left until the end of the season.

“I think for (Thomas) Tuchel the first choice in the middle of the park is still Kante. Kante has to be back to his best which is a problem right now because he got injured a lot.

“Maybe he lost a bit of his confidence. When he’s back to his best, I don’t see why he doesn’t play. Remember, Tuchel wanted him at Paris (Saint Germain), so I don’t think he’ll change his mind about him.”

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Kante is yet to start a game under Tuchel and has been limited to a handful of substitute appearances by the new manager.

The 29-year-old had been suffering from a hamstring problem that forced him to miss three fixtures in January.

He returned for Chelsea’s 2-0 win over Burnley but was only fit enough for the bench.

Kovacic and Jorginho have formed Tuchel’s favoured midfield pairing in his revised 3-4-2-1 formation. The duo have played very well in this period and look to have cemented themselves into the coach’s short-term plans at least.

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Leboeuf was correct in saying Tuchel wanted Kante whilst he was in charge at PSG, admitting that “he fought many years to have N’Golo Kante” in his team (HaytersTV).

It is still up for debate where the French World Cup winner fits into Chelsea’s system.

Tuchel has honed in on keeping possession and passing the ball, hence the preference over Kovacic and Jorginho.

Chelsea are yet to face an opponent that would need a disruptive midfielder like Kante to break up play.

Newcastle United and Southampton are up next in the Premier League. It will be down to Tuchel to decide whether or not Kante’s defensive attributes are required.

The Chelsea Chronicle View

I don’t think Kante is Chelsea’s first choice midfielder anymore as Lebouef claims.

He hasn’t hit the levels of the title winning seasons in 2016/17, largely because of his consistent injury woes.

Jorginho and Kovacic for me are the main men to turn now.

Nathaniel is a football journalist who graduated from the University of Derby. He has worked at Burton Albion as part of their media team for two years. Nathaniel produces regular articles for the club’s official website and match-day programme. He covered the 2018 U20 Women’s World Cup in Brittany and has reported from grounds ranging from non-league up to the Premier League.