N'Golo Kante has highest win percentage in Premier League
Ex-Leicester midfielder repeating success at Chelsea
If death and taxes are life’s two certainties, increasingly the likelihood of a football team winning when it fields N’Golo Kante is becoming another given.
Since the defensive midfielder’s move to English football in the summer of 2015, he has tasted near ceaseless success, helping to guide Leicester City to the Premier League title in the spring and his new club Chelsea to the top of the tree at Christmas this season.
At the time of writing, Leicester and Chelsea have accrued 2.29 points per game between them with the industrious midfielder in the side, compared to just 1.22 points per game without him.
No current Premier League player to have played 50 matches or more has a higher win percentage than the Frenchman (68.5%), and the contrasting fates of the clubs he has represented only serve to underline his influence.
Kante may have been snubbed in favor of Riyad Mahrez and Leicester top scorer Jamie Vardy when it came to the division’s individual awards for 2015-16, but after the highs of last season, it is their quietly-spoken former teammate who has gone on winning.
Since his summer move to Chelsea, reportedly for around $37m in July 2016, Antonio Conte’s side has notched up 13 consecutive wins in the Premier League, while his former teammates find themselves just three places off the relegation zone, with Leicester manager Claudio Ranieri admitting his team “must be smarter” in the French international midfielder’s absence.
What makes him special?
Ranieri joked that the Frenchman “must have a pack full of batteries hidden,” and Kante really does run all day.
He might have been plying his trade in the third tier of French football just four years ago, but no sooner had he touched down in Leicester, Kante’s industry quickly became apparent.
“People think we play with two in the midfield,” Leicester’s recruitment chief Steve Walsh reflected at the time. “I say ‘No – we play with Kante either side, giving us essentially 12 players on the pitch.’”
How it's calculated
- The English Premier League is awash with money, with its current TV deal reportedly worth nearly $11 billion. But which Premier League players are delivering the best bang for the buck for their clubs? Tracking a number of live on-field performance indicators -- such as goals, key passes and defensive actions like blocks and interceptions -- Player ROI, or return on investment, compares players' game performance to their cost to find out.
His presence helped him make 156 interceptions and 175 tackles last season.
No player in Europe’s top five leagues made more, and despite Kante’s combative approach, he picked up just three yellow cards in 37 appearances.
Content to lure out the opposition before pouncing in attack, Leicester’s title charge relied on Kante’s break-up play just as much as Vardy’s 24 league goals.
How has his game changed this season?
Manchester United’s legendary boss Alex Ferguson said Kante was “by far the best player” in the Premier League last year, but how has his game changed in light of his significant price tag and the expectations associated with a club like Chelsea?
By December, his average number of defensive actions per game had come down from six to four, perhaps reflecting Chelsea’s more proactive approach and typically greater share of possession.
Kante’s passing accuracy has improved from 82% to 90%, and – while he’s never likely to be prolific with fewer than 10 league goals in his entire professional career – his shot accuracy has nearly doubled.
If Kante had more of a license to roam at Leicester, popping up all over the pitch and registering 64 sprints per game, there is no sense that his disciplined role alongside midfield partner Nemanja Matic has limited his effectiveness.
In October, he helped himself to a fine solo goal against Manchester United – equaling his tally from last season – and put in a man-of-the-match display against his former teammates. Over the course of this season to date, no midfielder has made more interceptions.
With a league win percentage of 82.4% for Chelsea – higher than Arjen Robben’s all-time record of 82.1% – he has been a key reason why the London club top the Premier League.