Kante: I’m enjoying new role
Frenchman has shown signs of growing into his more advanced midfield position
N'Golo Kante insists he is finally growing into his new role in Chelsea's midfield as the France star prepares for tomorrow morning's (Singapore time) clash with Southampton.
Kante earned a reputation as the world's best defensive midfielder after playing a key role in Chelsea and Leicester City's English Premier League title triumphs, as well as France's World Cup victory.
But the 27-year-old has had to adapt to a change of position this season under new Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri.
Sarri, who replaced Antonio Conte in the close-season, brought Jorginho with him from Napoli to play the pivotal midfield role in front of the defence that used to be Kante's domain.
Sarri believes Jorginho's superior passing makes him more suited to launching Chelsea's attacks than the Frenchman, who is now operating in a slightly more advanced role on the right of midfield.
Kante has sometimes looked out of sorts in his new position this season, but he showed signs of getting to grips with it last Sunday, scoring the winner at Crystal Palace with a well-timed run and cool finish.
"This role is something I am enjoying and in a game I try to make that run sometimes," AFP quoted Kante as saying.
"David (Luiz) gave me a good ball and I am happy to score with my left foot and give something to the team."
Away wins at Watford and Palace made it a happy Christmas for Chelsea.
But with the Blues still trailing 11 points behind leaders Liverpool, their title ambitions have been put on the back burner as they focus on securing a place in next season's Champions League via a top-four finish.
Currently in fourth place - five points ahead of fifth-placed Arsenal - Sarri's side will be expected to consolidate that position against a Southampton team struggling to avoid relegation.
But Chelsea shouldn't be complacent after some inconsistent displays of late, including a surprise 1-0 defeat in their last home match against Leicester.
They could be hampered by fitness problems, with Olivier Giroud, Cesc Fabregas, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Pedro Rodriguez and Callum Hudson-Odoi all suffering injuries over Christmas.
Sarri has questioned Chelsea's mental strength and cutting edge at various times this season and it would be no surprise to see new faces arrive in the January transfer window.
WORK IN PROGRESS
Blues defender David Luiz admits Chelsea are still a work in progress, but he believes Sarri's philosophy is starting to take hold.
"It's the connection, training together every day, understanding the philosophy and trying to improve," said the Brazilian.
New Saints boss Ralph Hasenhuettl is also trying to get his new charges to understand his philosophy, but he has gotten off to an encouraging start with two wins in his first five matches.
The Austrian told the club's website: "In some moments, you can see how we want to press, how we want to hunt...
"If we do so, then we will always have chances to score like we did against Manchester City and against other good teams, we can do so.
"There's a lot of work to do, which is what we knew from the first moment, and it has been a tough schedule over Christmas."