He was happy to play there - Zola explains Sarri's reluctance to field Kante in favoured position

By Daniel Lewis 11 August 2019 9
He was happy to play there - Zola explains Sarri's reluctance to field Kante in favoured position

N'Golo Kante was happy to play in a more advanced midfield position under Maurizio Sarri last season, according to former Chelsea assistant Gianfranco Zola.

The 28-year-old won back-to-back Premier League titles in his favoured holding role, with Leicester City in 2016 and Chelsea in 2017, while also playing a key part in France's World Cup triumph last year.

But Sarri's arrival at Stamford Bridge last season brought a change of formation and the Italian preferred Jorginho, who he previously worked with at Napoli, at the base of his three-man midfield.

Kante was arguably less influential than usual in what was a mixed first and last campaign for Sarri at Chelsea, but Zola has defended the decision to play him in a more right-sided position.

"There are two reasons for that," Zola told beIN SPORTS. "The main reason is the way Sarri plays, the sitting midfielder plays the most passes.

"Last year, Jorginho played between 140 and 160 passes [per match], sometimes more. Sarri wants someone who is confident to get on the ball and play, someone who is influential.

"The second reason is that Kante is not a sitting midfielder. He has always played in a midfield two - first with Leicester and then in his first two years with Chelsea."

Kante joined Chelsea from Leicester for a reported £32million in July 2016 and was named the PFA Players' Player of the Year in his first season at the club, when he played predominantly alongside Nemanja Matic.

"At Leicester he played with [Danny] Drinkwater, who was the sitter," said Zola, who left Chelsea following Frank Lampard's appointment as head coach in July.

"He was moving a lot, free to go forward, sideways, backwards - whatever he wanted.

"The same early at Chelsea when Matic was the sitting one and Kante was doing the same job. We spoke to him about it and he was very happy to play in that position, he liked that position."

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