Thomas Tuchel says N’Golo Kante’s form has suffered this season as a result of injuries and illness and believes his recent lacklustre showings have contributed to Chelsea’s inconsistency.
The European champions have shipped seven goals in their last two outings, losing 4-1 at home to Brentford in the Premier League before suffering a 3-1 defeat against a Karim Benzema-inspired Real Madrid in the quarter-final of the Champions League.
Kante was replaced at half-time of that match, a significant fall from grace having been Man of the Match when they met last season, but Tuchel still has total faith in the Frenchman and his ‘unique’ skillset.
Asked if the amount of football Kante has played in recent years has taken a toll, Tuchel replied: ‘I don’t know. I can honestly not answer the question, this can be an ongoing debate and nobody will know if it’s like this.
‘One thing is very clear, which is that N’Golo is a key player because he has outstanding qualities, unique qualities.
‘For some other teams it’s maybe some strikers or central defenders, for us it’s N’Golo. He’s a unique player that can give something to the team that nobody else can.
‘He struggles in this season with consistency due to injuries, due to illness, and this is also a reason for our bit of inconsistency [as a team].
‘We missed him for so many matches, if you look at the minutes that he was available and could play.
‘At the moment he is fasting due to his religion, due to his beliefs, so maybe that’s another reason. I don’t think he’s doing it for the first time but of course if you don’t drink or eat during the day for many days it can have an effect.
‘Of course he’s not doing it for the first time and he’s used to it, but maybe it’s also part of the explanation why we have the feeling that he is not on his highest level.
‘If you compare how much of an influence he was in the last campaign against Real Madrid. This is also nothing to feel ashamed for or feel sorry about, this is a key player with unique qualities.
‘Of course we try to push him and we try to help him because we know what we have when he’s on the pitch.’
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