Leicester and the transfer of N’Golo Kanté
One of the most intriguing stories of sports history was preceded by clever transfers. One that got the most attention was the arrival of French defensive midfielder N'Golo Kanté from SM Caen. His new coach, Claudio Ranieri, preferred a 4-4-2 setup with a quick transition to the attack and needed two tireless players in the middle of the pitch.
Solution – N’Golo Kanté
Kante worth € 9 million at the time. Leicester's data scouts quickly recognized his high quality and knew he was an excellent choice for the Ranieri's system.
In Ligue 1, Kanté averaged 3.8 tackles per game, which would rank him among the top 10 Premier League players. And one of the best in Europe. Players with similar numbers usually play high on the pitch and are very capable of pressing - a necessity for a system based on counter-attacks.
Ranieri placed Kanté and Drinkwater (latter also managed to win over three balls per match), who together formed an almost impenetrable wall.
Kanté's adaptation to the Premier League
Ranieri used Kanté precisely as he was supposed to and it paid off. He immediately started to show almost the same performances as in France. In the title season, he recorded an average of 3.5 tackles and 5 interceptions, soon becoming an indispensable player for the club.
With quick players like Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy, and Shinji Okazaki they have got a perfect opportunity to use a counter-pressing system in the 4-4-2 formation. Kanté and Drinkwater won about 17.5 balls each match in the middle of the pitch and helped with a quick transition.
The French midfielder has since become one of the world's best defensive midfielders. Last season, Kanté improved his numbers and now earns about 4 balls in 90 minutes of play, improving also his interceptions and space defending. He now registers around 60 passes in the match with 91% accuracy.
After moving to Chelsea, he won the second Premier League title in a row. The last player who achieved this was Eric Cantona with Leeds and Manchester United in the 1991/92 and 1992/93 seasons. He became the best player of the Premier League, earned two Golden Ball nominations and won the World Championship with France.
Since his arrival to the Premier League, he has no season without a trophy so far. His high work ethic and the amount of balls taken is a crucial and often underrated skill.