N’Golo Kanté has had a superb season for Leicester City.
No player in England’s top flight has won the ball more often this season than the Frenchman, be it through tackling (4.5 per game) or through intercepting (4.2 per game). Only Aston Villa’s underrated Gueye with 4.1 tackles per game and 4.2 interceptions per game comes close to matching Kante’s defensive prowess in central midfield. Even Coquelin whilst still impressive has only managed 2.9 tackles and interceptions per game.
Whilst mighty impressive defensively Kante game is actually built around his dribbling skills which allows him to charge up the field and launch counter-attacks. In comparison to the likes of Gueye and Coquelin this places Kante more so in the category of a box to box midfielder than a holding defensive midfielder. Despite this, Kante’s end product is lacking with only 4 assists and one goal to his name this season.
Kante forward dribbling style but lack of end product combined with Arsenal tendency to play a central midfield combination comprising of a holding defensive midfielder (Coquelin) and box to box goal scoring midfielder (Ramsey) is why signing Kanté would be a strange move for Arsenal.
Rarely this season have the Gunners been afforded opportunities to counter-attack and Kanté’s game relies on counter-attacking football.
Whilst his evident defensive effectiveness would certainly add a different dimension to Arsenal’s midfield, with Coquelin and Ramsey (2.4 tackles and 1.9 interceptions) our most defensive options in the middle of the park, Kante simply does not possess the positionally discipline of Coquelin or the goal scoring threat of Ramsey.
Whilst I’d understand if Arsenal were to pursue the positionally disciplined Gueye, Kante is just not the type of player Arsenal need in their current system.
Arsenal are not and will not revert to the swift and ruthless counter attacking style that brought so much success in the early 2000s (something many fans continue to struggle to accept). The attacking play of Arsenal today is focused on monopolising possession of the football in the opposition’s half through countless short passes in and around the opposition’s penalty box and patiently probing for a presentable goal scoring opportunity.
In this system, whilst Kanté would certainly add energy he wouldn’t add the calm or thoughtful passing game that’s needed in the middle of the pitch. Similarly should he replace Coquelin, it would leave Arsenal with another adventurous player at the base of midfield; hardly a solution to Arsenal’s current susceptibility to opposition counter attacks.
Whilst Wenger’s side continues to search for an almost mythical central midfielder with the unique skill set of Vieira (who could play make from deep, tackle effectively and charge up the field to offer a goal scoring threat), Kanté, whilst a tenacious cavalier in the middle of the park, is not the answer.
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