Chelsea are reportedly interested in signing Declan Rice from West Ham this summer.
The Blues are keen to add a defensive midfielder to their squad before the beginning of the 2020/21 season.
That looks like bad news for N’Golo Kante. The Frenchman has endured an alarming slide in status over the last two years, going from Antonio Conte’s most important midfielder to a player Frank Lampard’s men have coped without at times this season.
So what would a move for Rice entail for Kante?
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We take a look at what it could mean for Chelsea’s midfield next season.
Kante’s poor season
Even before news of further competition emerged, Kante’s position appeared under threat. He has struggled to make an impact during the 2019/20 campaign, in particular during Chelsea’s difficult winter months.
The 28-year-old has always been box-to-box, but Lampard’s expansive shape requires too much of the midfielder. Where he once hit unmatched tackling and intercepting figures in compact counter-attacking teams, now his main strengths are limited in a possession-based side.
His performances had dipped, and question marks were raised, long before Billy Gilmour’s rise to prominence during Kante’s recent injury absence and that has only added to the sense his time at Stamford Bridge could be coming to an end, amid links with a move to Real Madrid.
Rice the destroyer
Rice’s most eye-catching attribute is his tackling, for which he ranks among the Premier League’s top ten with 3.0 per match. Consequently, Lampard’s interest in the England international suggests he wants defensive clout in midfield – but only from the base, where Rice sticks rigidly at West Ham.
And so Kante is simply in the wrong place at the wrong time: his all-action approach is too attacking for the holding role, and yet…