Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri, has turned his sights on to N’Golo Kanté just days after his side’s first defeat of the Premier League season, complaining the World Cup winner roamed out of position too much during Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Spurs.
Sarri’s 18-game unbeaten start to competitive action with Chelsea was ended by Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley and the Italian wants to see a reaction after rebuking Kanté for roaming too much.
Kanté won two Premier League titles, with Leicester City and Chelsea, playing in central midfield, but has been deployed out of position on the right to accommodate Italy playmaker Jorginho in Sarri’s chosen style.
The 27-year-old signed a new five-year contract just last week and was Professional Footballers’ Association and Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year in 2017.
Speaking ahead of Thursday’s Europa League Group L game with Greece’s PAOK, Sarri said: “I want to play as a centre midfielder with a very technical player. For me the centre midfielder is Jorginho or [Cesc] Fabregas.
“I don’t want Kanté in this position. Kanté in the last match wanted to solve the match after the first 15 minutes, but in the wrong way. He lost the position, he attacked too much the other box. And I think this one is not one of the best characteristics of Kanté . It was only a reaction to the difficulties.”
Sarri has encouraged Kanté to get forward in matches and his latest comments may appear to be a contradiction.
But Sarri explained there is a time and place for Kanté to attack.
“Kanté has to stay near to Jorginho, especially when the ball is on the other side,” Sarri added.
“It depends on the action. If the ball is on the left, we have [Marcos] Alonso, [Eden] Hazard, [Mateo] Kovacic, [Ross] Barkley, so in that situation he has to stay very close to Jorginho.”
Sarri described Chelsea’s performance against Spurs as “a match without determination”.
He wants to see an immediate reaction to the defeat, against PAOK and in Sunday’s Premier League game with Fulham, after discussing the Spurs performance with his players.
Chelsea are already through to the Europa League last 32 and need a point to win Group L with one match to go.
“I have a meeting of five or 10 minutes with the individuals, individual meetings with the players,” he added. “The targets are very clear in my mind: in the short period, to win something. And in the long period, to become the best team in Europe. I want to see we learned our lessons.”
Hazard is out with an ankle injury sustained against Spurs, but should be back to face Fulham.
Sarri said: “I am worried because 25 days ago he had a back injury. Now an ankle. He has lost a lot of training. It’s normal at the moment he isn’t at the top of his physical condition.”
Striker Olivier Giroud says Chelsea are determined to show their strength against PAOK, who they beat 1-0 in Greece in September.
He added: “The manager was not happy at all with our performance. It’s our first defeat this season, it has been hard to accept it. We want to bounce back tomorrow in the Europa League and after in the game against Fulham.
“We just want to make it right in the next game.”