KEOWN TALKS TACTICS: How King Kante can conquer Wembley against his former club Leicester, Jonny Evans’ fitness is key to Brendan’s plan and dealing with the nerves of an FA Cup final
- Kante is a seasoned winner and was allowed to decide the final against his old club
- Without talisman defender Evans, Brendan Rodgers’ side can use a back four
- Finalists will have to ignore the adrenaline and play the game, not the opportunity
- Blues boss Thomas Tuchel wants the double, but he can’t see further than this match
Thomas Tuchel knows how important N’Golo Kante is.
The midfielder with a twin engine loves a big occasion. He was the man of the match in both legs of the Champions League semi-final with Real Madrid.
Chelsea’s second goal in their 2-0 home win over Real came from Kante as he sprinted in anticipation of winning a second ball. He won possession, Mason Mount scored and Chelsea were confirmed as a Champions League finalist.
N’Golo Kante is a winner and can influence matches on the biggest stage, such as the FA Cup final
Kante is a winner. He has won trophies for Leicester, Chelsea and the World Cup with France. At his first start to the league for Leicester, against Bournemouth in 2015, he won 10 tackles – six more than anyone on the field.
Claudio Ranieri quickly recognized his worth as a No. 6 and Kante ended up making the most tackles and interceptions of any Premier League player when Leicester won the title that season.
Tuchel now uses him excellently in midfield two. Maurizio Sarri rushed Kante back to win the Europa League final two years ago because of the influence he can have.
Tuchel equipped Kante midweek for ‘pain management’, but he will want him back and shoot all cylinders for Saturday’s cup final and certainly for the Champions League final in two weeks.
Jonny Evans ‘fitness is key to Brendan Rodgers’ battle plan
Brendan Rodgers faces a tactical dilemma on Saturday. Leicester has largely used a back three this season, but took a very important victory over Manchester United on Tuesday with a back four.
Rodgers will have watched Arsenal beat Chelsea in their own game the following evening, with Mikel Arteta’s side matching their opponents by going down three for the first time since December.
The system involved Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on his own front, retired wide players Emile Smith Rowe and Martin Odegaard and the fullbacks who went head-to-head with Chelsea’s.
The absence of Leicester defender Jonny Evans (left) could force the squad to use a back four
Boss Brendan Rodgers will likely use Jamie Vardy (left) and Kelechi Iheanacho (right) up front
Jonny Evans ‘fitness will have a major impact on Rodgers’ system on Saturday. When fit, Rodgers may feel like he’s better served by returning to their tried and trusted back three.
Those back three are protected by Wilfred Ndidi, the much admired midfield general, and Youri Tielemans, who is so technically gifted and a master of space finding. Rodgers wants to use Jamie Vardy and Kelechi Iheanacho as two strikers at the top.
Their partnership has turned out to be formidable. At 34, this could be Vardy’s last chance at a trophy, while Iheanacho, 24, is currently one of the country’s most prolific strikers.
Rodgers must then decide whether to use James Maddison in the space behind the attackers and ahead of Tielemans and Ndidi, or Ayoze Perez. Rodgers will love taking on an experienced coach like Tuchel.
Finalists will have to play the game, not the opportunity
When playing in a final there are nerves and adrenaline. A large audience is watching from home, but you have to play the game – not the occasion. Chelsea have a clear lead over Leicester in terms of experience, giving them a huge advantage.
There are those who played in the FA Cup final last season and will still suffer from that loss to Arsenal at Wembley.
Tuchel’s team makes it difficult for their opponents to get through by defending with seven men – five defenders and two midfielders in front.
Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel can win his first trophy at the club against Leicester on Sunday
Even if their fullbacks fly forward to give them width, the back three and the midfield stay together so they always have a secure base. This marks the beginning of a season-defining two weeks for Chelsea.
On Saturday they have a big chance to win their first trophy under Tuchel. Then two massive Premier League games follow, one against Leicester and the other against Aston Villa, to secure their place in the top four.
Finally, there is the Champions League final, in which Chelsea hope they can make it a double-winning season.
But Tuchel wants to get this trophy in his pocket first. Nothing else matters on Saturday.