Speaking ahead of Arsenal’s match against Premier League leaders Chelsea, Arsene Wenger expressed his admiration for one Blues midfielder. Admiration so high, he tried to sign the player. Twice.
“Have I looked to sign Kanté?” Wenger repeated at his pre-match press conference. “Yes. When he was in France and when he was at Leicester. I cannot explain everything [about why he preferred Chelsea] but it is quite obvious when you look at where he has gone. Was it the money? I do not want to talk about that. Transfers are transfers – you cannot explain absolutely everything.”
Wenger is known for his ability to find young talent in obscure places, and it’s clear he was aware of Kante’s abilities when he was with Caen in his early 20’s. Eventually, he went to Leicester City in the summer of 2015, and made history as he led them to the Premier League title as arguably the Foxes’ best player that season.
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He has carried that form over to Chelsea, pairing with Nemanja Matic in an important holding and distributing role in front of Antonio Conte‘s three central defenders. Wenger believes the link between Leicester’s stunning season last year and Chelsea’s charge this campaign is clear.
“I feel Chelsea have found a better defensive balance since we beat then 3-0 at home in September,” Wenger said. “They are very good in transition. I watched their game against Liverpool and Kanté had a huge impact in their team. It’s no coincidence that they are in the position that they are and Leicester were in the position they were last season. Eden Hazard and Diego Costa have also come back to very strong form compared to last season, so Chelsea are very efficient when they go forward.”
Kante’s passing was suspect in the draw with Liverpool, but his defensive prowess was monstrous as he made a stunning 14 successful tackles in 15 attempts.