N’Golo Kante made the Professional Footballers Association English Premier League Team of the Year when Leicester won the title and one thinks that he is a worth favourite to collect the PFA’s top individual honour this season as Chelsea charges towards the English championship.
Kante is far from the flashiest player in the Chelsea ranks but, as Leicester lurches from one disaster to another near the foot of the English Premier League ladder, it is tough to escape the conclusion that he has been the competition’s most influential player over the last one and a bit terms.
The knives are out for Leicester coach Claudio Ranieri – he is the favourite to be the next English Premier League boss replaced – with the manager formerly known as The Tinkerman copping criticism that the Foxes have stopped playing for him. That may or may not be the case but one takes on the Leicester crisis is much simpler – the Foxes are missing Kante and they cannot either stop opponents or launch dangerous counters without the France midfielder.
Kante led the English Premier League in tackles last season, making 175 in Leicester’s remarkable campaign – 31 more than Idrissa Gueye and another 28 more than Erik Pieters. Kante ranks third for English Premier League tackles this term, his 86 being short of Jordan Henderson’s 88 and Gueye’s 95.
The area in which Kante has improved this season is passes. Kante (1,472) is fifth on the English Premier League passes ladder behind Jordan Henderson (2,059), Paul Pogba (1,787), Ander Herrera (1,642) and Cesar Azpilicueta (1,580) having not ranked in the top 20 last term. Kante’s English Premier League passes average has risen from 39.16 when playing for Leicester to 61.33 in the similar blue shirt of Chelsea.
Chelsea stars dominate the PFA Player of the Year betting market with 13 of the 38 rounds remaining, Kante favoured ahead of Eden Hazard and Diego Costa. Hazard received the PFA Player of the Year award two seasons ago but he did not make last term’s PFA English Premier League Team of the Year in a fall from grace. Costa is a polarising figure and, to earn the PFA Player of the Year honour, one thinks that he will have to win the English Premier League Golden Boot at the very least. Costa has scored 15 English Premier League goals this season, one fewer than Romelu Lukaku and another one off the Golden Boot pace set by Alexis Sanchez.
If Leicester becomes the first English champion to suffer relegation at the end of its title defence since Manchester City in the late 1930s and Chelsea succeeds the Foxes as the English Premier League king then Kante is going to be the talk of the country when the players cast their votes.
The PFA Player of the Year trophy has not found its way onto the mantelpiece of a defensively minded footballer since John Terry picked up the prize in 2005 and you have to go back to 2000 for the most recent recipient who plays in a similar vein to Kante – that man was Roy Keane. But one is confident that Kante’s case for the PFA Player of the Year gong will be so compelling in such circumstances – Leicester either going down or staying up by the skin of its teeth and Chelsea regaining the English Premier League crown – that he is well worth backing at odds of +150 with SkyBet, BetVictor and Betway.
N’Golo Kante to win PFA Player of the Year
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