With every passing day Chelsea are closer to welcoming back N’Golo Kante to their side. Potter, having been in charge for six months, hasn’t had the luxury of selecting the Frenchman even once.
The extent to just how important Kante is really shouldn’t be understated either. In 67 games under Thomas Tuchel Chelsea averaged 2.2 points per game with his presence. Without him, 32 games, the average went down to just 1.7 points per game. It is quite a drop, especially considering the truly world class levels that his sides get to when he plays.
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Not only has Potter’s Chelsea squad been ravaged by injuries it has hit him with the worst players too. Reece James and Ben Chilwell are both vital whilst Mateo Kovacic has been an underappreciated member for much of his time in London. None hurt more than Kante though.
His return to training has been a big boost for moral and general positivity at Cobham as the new players look to gel and come together. “We’ve had a good week’s training, everyone is available pretty much apart from N’Golo [Kante] and Christian Pulisic,” Potter said before the game against Tottenham.
“They are making progress, joining the warm-ups, and they will be more integrated next week. So that is good.” Although Kante isn’t going to be ready to play on Sunday the feeling of welcoming back a player of his quality – and allowing Potter to coach someone with his talents, will cause some optimism, even at a time of relative negativity.
This isn’t simply a regular player coming back here. Thomas Tuchel was so positive about Kante he compared him to some of the true world superstars. “I think he is our key, key player but key, key players have to be on the pitch and he only plays 40% of games,” Tuchel said in 2022. “He is our Mo Salah, (Virgil) van Dijk. He is our Kylian Mbappe.”
It’s high praise but Kante has had the type of impact these players have also had. He was the key to the 2021 Champions League win and will be a difference maker again if he can come back in some form for the second leg against Borussia Dortmund in two weeks time. It might just save Potter’s job.