CHELSEA had been at all times going to overlook N’Golo Kante when he was injured.
However fairly how a lot they’re lacking the present Footballer of the 12 months is alarming for the champions.
The issues for Antonio Conte run a lot deeper than merely making an attempt to patch issues up with out Kante, the quiet murderer in midfield who turned the star of the aspect which ran away with the title final season.
Chelsea are making extra errors and slip-ups than ever earlier than, the gamers are misplacing passes, and the shortage of communication at instances is staggering given how coherent they had been final season.
And with out Kante there to cowl for others’ errors, to snuff out hazard earlier than different frailties may be uncovered, Chelsea’s issues are being laid embarrassingly naked.
The humiliating Three-Zero defeat to Roma was arguably a consequence that has been coming for a while.
The midfield was overrun repeatedly, as Stephan El Shaarawy scored twice within the first half and Diego Perotti added a 3rd after 63 minutes.
The warning indicators have been there nonetheless for weeks.
Within the six video games earlier than Kante, 26, injured his hamstring whereas on worldwide obligation with France at the beginning of October, Chelsea had been piling up the wins, though they did not carry out anyplace close to as convincingly as they did final season.
Most significantly, Conte’s aspect solely conceded three targets in these six video games.
RUN OF FORM N’Golo Kante was taking part in in France’s ninth tier six years in the past – so how did he develop into the Premier League’s greatest participant?
In distinction, within the six video games since Kante’s harm, Chelsea have misplaced to Roma, suffered a shock defeat to Crystal Palace and the defence has let in 11 targets.
The failings of the Chelsea defence are being uncovered, with out Kante there to paper over the cracks and make all of it look OK.
Chelsea supporters on Twitter made their emotions clear, that Chelsea are half the crew with out the 5ft 6in Kante.
The midfield pairing of Cesc Fabregas and Tiemoue Bakayoko had been mis-matched in Rome and misplaced nearly all of the battles within the centre of the pitch.
BT Sport pundit Steven Gerrard criticised Conte’s choice for the Roma sport however the Italian at the moment has few choices.
Danny Drinkwater has solely performed twice since his £35million deadline day switch from Leicester to Stamford Bridge, after battling a calf harm.
However the England man is not any alternative for his French pal.
He has not performed commonly for greater than six months now.
Drinkwater, Fabregas, Bakayoko… all of them look good alongside Kante, however fall means quick when making an attempt to fill his boots.
The choice to promote Nemanja Matic to Manchester United in the summertime has by no means seemed so dumb.
Had Matic been obtainable to fill the void left by Kante’s harm, issues can be very completely different for Chelsea at this time.
Not solely are Chelsea lacking Kante, they’re additionally pining for Matic, who has been a key determine at United this season and was instrumental within the aspect’s 2-Zero win over Benfica on Tuesday evening as Chelsea had been being dismantled in Rome.
That loss will likely be introduced painfully residence on Sunday, when Matic will line up at Stamford Bridge once more, within the purple of United.
Kante, nonetheless, continues to be solely 50-50 for the sport, regardless of returning to coaching at Chelsea’s Cobham HQ in current days.
Conte revealed he’ll solely choose the Frenchman when he feels totally match once more.
On Tuesday evening the Chelsea boss mentioned: “After an vital muscular drawback, it might be silly to danger it, so when Kante feels at 100 per cent, he’ll return to taking part in.”
Kante’s return can’t come quickly sufficient for Conte and the Chelsea followers.
Sunday’s mouth-watering conflict with United can be splendid.