De Jong says one Chelsea player 'exposed' Manchester City duo in Champions League final

Former Manchester City midfielder Nigel de Jong said the presence of Chelsea midfielder N’Golo Kante was the “difference” in the Champions League final on Saturday.

Pep Guardiola’s decision to start without any natural defensive midfielder certainly raised some eyebrows.

Instead, he opted for Ilkay Gundogan, who has been their top scorer this season, as his deepest midfielder.

De Jong, who would know how important a holding midfielder is given he used to play in that position, was not impressed with the tactical decision.

He even said eventual man of the match Kante outworked Manchester City midfield duo.

Photo by Edwin van Zandvoort/Soccrates/Getty Images

“You cannot play with two players [in midfield] that are not holding midfielders,” De Jong told beIN SPORTS.

“So you’re missing out on a lot of coverage for your defence.

“Especially in the first half we saw when Chelsea were coming from the sides. It was one-on-one on the sides around Manchester City’s box.

“You need a holding midfielder next to you as a defender — that’s what they [Manchester City] were missing.

“You could see the difference that Chelsea had in N’Golo Kante compared to the likes of Gundogan and [Bernardo] Silva.

“Kante did the work, was exposing both of them and exposing that you need a holding midfielder.”

Photo by MANU FERNANDEZ/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Chronicle view

De Jong might have had a point since when Fernandinho came on in the second half, both Gundogan and Foden had more freedom to attack.

Chelsea, however, managed to defend well in the second half, and Kai Havertz’s first-half goal proved enough to fire them to the Champions League glory.

Perhaps the most impressive of all is the fact that Chelsea could limit Guardiola’s men to just one shot on target despite facing so many Manchester City playmakers in both midfield and the flanks.

Kante was certainly the key to that. Cesar Azpilicueta even admitted that he lost count of how many times the France international recovered the ball in the game.

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A Chelsea fan who loves football statistics. Studied sports journalism at the University of Sunderland.