N'Golo Kante vs James Maddison
(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

Trying to predict N’Golo Kante’s return from injury is proving to be a nightmare for Chelsea fans.

Since the end of last season the French midfielder has seemed on the verge of a comeback, even appearing to play 120 superb minutes against Liverpool in the Super Cup before vanishing again with a new complaint.

It’s been clear he’s close to a return for a while, and some websites even had him in their predicted lineups for last night’s game with Valencia, but it was another no show.

The former Leicester man is our best player now that Eden Hazard is gone, and not having him around is doing untold damage to our season. As soon as he’s fit, he will be back in the team, and it will be interesting to see how things adapt to accommodate him.

Frank Lampard has shown himself to be a very flexible coach, changing his formation and lineup far more between games than our previous set of managers. Kante is the key though, and we will set up in whatever way gets the best out of him.

Playing three central defenders has worked in these last two games, but with Kante back Lampard will surely be tempted to return to a midfield three. Kante adds energy and forward momentum to the technical but often passive duo of Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho.

On the other hand, Lampard played Jorginho with Kante and Mount against Leicester, when all were fit. Perhaps when Mason is fit again he will be the third man in midfield, adding goals to the energy of Kante and the control of Jorginho.

Hopefully Kante’s ability to cover on the break will give us the defensive cover that the 4 man defences Lampard picked earlier in the season. In theory, that 3 could work very well, and we look forward to seeing how this team can function with such an integral cog restored.

It won’t solve all our problems, but it will hopefully finally allow our manager to stop his hopping between systems and start really establishing the way he wants to play. The high press Lampard has already implemented will benefit hugely from the notable energy Kante provides to every team he plays in.

Another priority is finding a replacement for Kante. This period has shown that we don’t currently have a backup in the squad who can do anything like a similar job. If it’s not going to be Ethan Ampadu, we need to look to the academy or the transfer market for someone who can take Kante’s place both in the short term for when the World Cup winner isn’t fit, but also long term as interest from abroad ramps up again.

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