/Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri wants to see Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus-Cheek improvement after N’Golo K

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri wants to see Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus-Cheek improvement after N’Golo K


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Sarri told talkSPORT he wants to see the two England midfielders improve in the same way N’Golo Kante has done over the past few months

Maurizio Sarri will now start working with Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus-Cheek in an attempt to help them improve in the same way N’Golo Kante has done over the past few months.

There have been major questions asked over whether Kante has a future at Chelsea under Sarri, as the role he excels in – dedicated ball-winner – is not a role the Italian wants in his team.

Instead, Kante has been forced to play the role of shuttler on the right side of a three-man midfield, playing just ahead of Jorginho, the holder, and slightly behind the more attacking member of the trio.

It has been, at times, a tough season for Kante

It has been, at times, a tough season for Kante

While in this box-to-box role Kante still has to win possession for Chelsea – a duty he fulfils better than perhaps any other player in the game – he also has to offer something going forward.

Creativity has never been a trait of Kante’s game, and prior to the start of this season he had scored just three Premier League goals – one in each of his three seasons in English football.

Sarri critical of Kante

Back in November, Maurizio Sarri claimed Kante is not technically proficient enough to play in midfield for his Chelsea team. He said:

“I think, as you know, I want to play a central midfielder as a very technical player, a Jorginho or [Cesc] Fabregas.

“I don’t want Kante in this position.

“Kante, in the last match [vs Tottenham], wanted to solve the match after the first 15 minutes but in the wrong way.

“He lost his position. He attacked too much the other box. And I think this is not one of the best characteristics of Kante.

“Maybe it’s only a question of time.

“But Kante has to stay near to Jorginho, especially when the ball is on the other side.”

However, his match-winning strike in Sunday’s defeat of Crystal Palace was already Kante’s third league goal of 2018/19, meaning the World Cup winner is now Chelsea’s joint-highest scoring midfielder this season.

He has netted the same number of league goals as both Barkley and Loftus-Cheek, and Kante’s finish against Palace proved he is learning how to play the role Sarri requires of him.

An excellent run beyond the Palace defence gave Kante the room to control David Luiz’s lofted pass before turning inside the area and firing past Vicente Guaita in goal, and the movement made by Kante was something that surely would not have been seen just a few months ago.

Kante took the ball brilliantly on his chest before striking past Guaita

Kante took the ball brilliantly on his chest before striking past Guaita

Kante managed to poke the ball past Guaita’s outstretched hand, though the keeper did get a slight touch

Kante managed to poke the ball past Guaita’s outstretched hand, though the keeper did get a slight touch

It was a goal Sarri would surely have been proud of

It was a goal Sarri would surely have been proud of

Sarri was certainly impressed by the France international, and he’s now going to start working with Barkley and Loftus-Cheek to improve them in the say way as Kante.

“He’s improving in this kind of movement,” Sarri said of Kante in an interview with talkSPORT. “The movement was very good, and was done with the right timing.

“So now I think we have to work on Barkley for this, as well as Loftus-Cheek.

“At the moment Loftus-Cheek is a very great player with the ball, but he needs to improve in movement without the ball.”

Sarri was not entirely pleased with Chelsea’s performance, however, despite the Blues opening up a five point gap between themselves in fourth and Arsenal in fifth.

The former Napoli boss was especially critical of how his side struggled in the final five minutes – the only period of the match in which Crystal Palace threatened.

He continued: “We played very well for 85 minutes, especially in the second half.

Despite Palace’s late pressure, they finished the match without recording a single shot on target

Despite Palace’s late pressure, they finished the match without recording a single shot on target

“In the first half I though we moved the ball very well, but a little bit slowly, but in the second half we moved the ball in the same way but at heightened speed.

“We didn’t kill the match and I didn’t like it, because of course, in the last five minutes, it is very difficult to defend inside the box.”

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