N’Golo Kante vs Naby Keita: Who Will Have a Better Season?
N'Golo Kante: The Premier League's best defensive midfielder
After winning the Premier League in 2015/16, N’Golo Kante joined Chelsea from Leicester City in the summer of 2016. He immediately took command of the Chelsea midfield and won the 2016/17 Premier League title as well with the Blues.
Touted by his teammates as a player who has the work rate of two players in football games, Kante has been the best defensive midfielder in the Premier League for a few seasons and certainly one of the best in the world as well.
He added another feather to his crown by winning the FIFA World Cup 2018, establishing his place among the world’s greatest players. His dominance in the Premier League is unparalleled - he has played 108 games and won 71.
He has made 419 tackles since joining the Premier League, with an astonishing tackle success rate of 68%. He also has 326 interceptions, 923 recoveries and zero errors leading to goals.
He is the ideal midfield dynamo, fast, strong and relentless.
Naby Keita: The new arrival
Before joining Liverpool this season, Naby Keita played 58 games for RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga. He had 150 take-ons and won 146 tackles, and another 118 interceptions. He also won 112 fouls, had 86 shots, created 79 chances and had 12 assists to his name. He also scored 14 goals.
Keita likes to play short passes, likes to dribble and is strong in tackling and interceptions. Like Kante, Keita has a lot of running in him and at Leipzig he shouldered a lot of responsibility in midfield.
He is a very good passer of the ball, has a thunderous shot in him and is splendid on the counter-attack. He has the added quality of contributing in front of the goal as well - in the 177 club games he has played so far, Keita has scored 41 goals.
To put matters into perspective, he is only 23 years old. He is already a complete footballer, a player who can do everything and he will surely get better.
Since joining Liverpool, Keita has effortlessly slipped into the starting lineup, looking like he had been playing alongside his new teammates for years. He has looked like an all round midfielder and has already taken the league by storm.
Against Crystal Palace, Keita did it all, he intercepted the ball, tried to set up Mohamed Salah with an outrageous lofted ball and stung Hennessey's palms with a thunderous effort. He seemed like the perfect fit for Klopp's attacking football and experts are already expecting him to overshadow the brilliant Kante this season.
Keita vs Kante
In the first two games so far, Kante has played 180 minutes and scored one goal. He had 4 shots, with one of them on target. He touched the ball 140 times and completed 115 passes. He had 3 interceptions and 4 tackles, conceding 2 fouls.
Keita played 177 minutes, without scoring, but he also had 4 shots, with 2 of them on target. He had 164 touches on the ball, completing 132 passes. He even attempted a through ball.
He had 2 interceptions, 6 tackles and committed 1 foul. Keita, at the start of the season, has matched Kante in every aspect, though missing out on the goal. However, it won't be long before he gets his name on the scoresheet.
But it is not by mere coincidence that Kante has been sitting on top of the midfield pile for the last few years in the Premier League. He has overcome some stellar challenges from some very capable challengers to be the epitome of a perfect midfielder.
Kante has been in the top of the interceptions list among the midfielders in the 2015/16 season as well as last season. In the 2016/17 season, he was narrowly beaten to the top by Romeu.
In the list of most tackles by midfielders in the league season, Kante has been in the top 3 in every season since he joined the Premier League. He gives away very few fouls, which is the reason for his high tackle success rate.
Under Maurizio Sarri, Kante is rediscovering himself in a more advanced position, with Jorginho playing the deeper midfield role. Kante does not seem to mind and, in reality, he has the abilities to succeed higher up in the field.
For the sceptics, it makes his role similar to Keita now, where he is more involved in the offensive side of the game and, as a result, should still strongly influence the game. He has already scored a goal and should score a few more till the end of the season.
Last season, Kante averaged 3.4 tackles and 2.6 interceptions per 90 minutes, while Keita averaged 3.0 tackles and 1.7 interceptions per 90 minutes. Keita will give Kante tough competition this season, but it is a battle that should bring the best out of the Frenchman.
He is, after all, a World Cup winner now. Only time will tell who comes out on top, but for now, the Premier League is blessed to have two world-class central midfielders running the show. It is only going to get better from here.
Who do you think will have a better season between these two? Let us know in comments.