Thomas Tuchel believes N’Golo Kante’s absence this season has impacted Chelsea’s season in a big way.
The Blues have disappointed this season, coming into this season as Premier League title contenders after winning the Champions League last season.
But they fell out of the title race over the winter and never managed to make up ground, slipping and stumbling, and particularly since Roman Abramovich came under government sanctions, leading to the likely sale of the club.
There has been turbulence off the field, but Chelsea had already fallen away by then, and the issues do not explain their disappointments on the field.
One aspect that might is the regular absence of key midfielder Kante, or at least according to Tuchel.
Kante has only started 20 of Chelsea’s 38 Premier League games due to injury, and that has hampered the whole team, according to Tuchel.
“I think he is our key, key, key player; but key, key, key players need to be on the pitch,” said Tuchel after Chelsea’s draw with Leicester City on Thursday night.
“He plays only 40 per cent of the games. So it’s maybe a miracle that we arrived in third place.
“Because he is our Mo Salah, he is our (Virgil) Van Dijk, he is our (Kevin) De Bruyne, he is simply that player.
!He is our Neymar, he is our Kylian Mbappe; he is the guy who makes the difference. And if you only have him 40 per cent it’s a huge problem.
“Given that percentage it’s maybe a miracle of how consistent we produce results and puts everything into perspective. Because I saw Liverpool without Van Dijk last season and they struggled, heavily.
“And you see the difference. So N’Golo is our key player, and he needs to be on the pitch.”