Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez in action with Chelsea's N'Golo Kante and Cesar Azpilicueta

Mercurial N’Golo Kante stakes claim for player of the year



Chelsea´s N’Golo Kante (centre) tackles Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez

Tim Harrison

By Tim Harrison

While football writers salivate over Eden Hazard´s goal-scoring wizardry, the distillation process that determines who should eventually be dubbed Chelsea´s player of the year is already underway.

Hazard, perhaps? Diego Costa, surely? Thibaut Courtois, maybe? David Luiz, possibly? Doubtless it will eventually go to Costa or Hazard - with the Captain Haddock lookalike likely as not taking the gong with him on the first jet to Shanghai in June.

But the guy who really deserves the honour is a Paris-born midget who turns 26 next month; a quiet, determined player whose £32million price tag last summer is now looking a steal.

Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together please for N´Golo Kante.

As he demonstrated in the 3-1 victory over Arsenal, this inventive, creative, calm, assured midfielder has an elusive, bamboozling style.

He can´t be caught, he can´t be outfoxed and he can´t - seemingly - be rattled. Yet he has superb ability, an aptitude for pinpoint passing and an achingly traditional gift for true teamsmanship that other selfish look-at-men superstars often lack.

Above all, he is balanced. When he dances forward on tiptoes, darting around defenders, outflanking clunky lunges or sidestepping crudely outstretched feet, he is a thing of beauty.

Leicester City miss him, and miss him badly. No acquisition by the Blues has had such an immensely positive effect on Stamford Bridge and such a proportionately negative effect on a player´s former club.

Another intriguing crop of results means the league title battle is now condensing into a two-way fight between Spurs and Chelsea, with Tottenham - on paper - facing the sternest test this weekend at Anfield.

But the Blues´ journey to Burnley on Sunday lunchtime is anything but easy. Turf Moor is proving something of a fortress, and Tony Conte´s men will take nothing for granted.

Kante is one of the names to be first scrawled on the draft teamsheet. If he´s as mercurial as he was against the Gooners, all will be well.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and unless specifically stated are not necessarily those of Hammersmith & Fulham Council.

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