Sunday, April 23, 2017

N'Golo Kante Named PFA Player Of The Year 2016/17

If there is no surprise that the majority of Premier League players have picked N’Golo Kante as their first choice for player of the year, there is one surprise from his sensational debut season at Chelsea: he was not Antonio Conte’s first choice for central midfield.

That was actually Roma’s Radja Nainggolan, but the Italian very soon realised it was far from a problem to miss out on the Belgian - not when he had the irrepressible Kante making almost every single tackle and just making Chelsea better. He realised he truly had a one-of-a-kind midfielder, who almost did the work of several players.

This is the thing about the champions elect, too, and why the 26-year-old deserves to win this individual award. Chelsea’s season can essentially be divided into markedly different stages, with each almost defined by different players.

An uncertain and unsteady start was swept away by the switch to three at the back, whereupon the speed that Victor Moses adjusted to the right wing-back - and then so regularly rampaged up the flank - reflected and fired the way a reshaped Chelsea were resoundingly blowing away opposition.

Other Premier League sides soon adjusted to this, but couldn’t adjust to Diego Costa, who went through a prolonged period of scoring big match-winning goals in otherwise tight games. Then came a few unexpected setbacks, like the defeats to Crystal Palace and Manchester United, only for Eden Hazard to rise up and show his true level with huge moments.

There were other players like David Luiz and Marcos Alonso who also stepped up at key times having generally stood out, but the relevant point is how they alternated in importance. As one endures a lull, another enjoys a resurgence. Not so with Kante.