Football at it's infancy was all about attacking. There was little to no emphasis on defending or even on passing. The philosophy was "if you score, I will score more"
But recent changes in both tactics and fitness made modern managers more aware that a solid defensive structure is key to success and so, they opted to start building from the back when looking at players in the transfer market.
Leicester City won the English Premier League with N'Golo Kanté playing as a defensive midfielder for the better part of the season. He went to Chelsea again and repeated the same feat because both Antonio Conte and Claudio Raneiri recognised his defensive prowess.
With the appointment of Maurizio Sarri as Chelsea's head coach, we saw a position change for Kanté. Although he was now more progressive with the ball, his defensive contribution were far less than they were. The Frenchman had to change positions in order to accommodate Jorginho who was key to how Sarri wanted to play football.
Frank Lampard seems to have continued this after his appointment. Although Kanté has had to deal with injuries, he still managed to get 22 League appearances this season. Lampard's tactical template revolves around a double pivot in the middle, with one sitting back and another being more progressive. While the World Cup winner has excelled in every position he has been asked to play, there is no doubt that the best performances in his career have come from playing as a defensive midfielder. It won him the League twice and a World Cup.
With Kanté now confirmed to be out for the FA Cup semi-final, Lampard would have to tweak his tactics a bit in order to stop Manchester United. In the last 3 games between Chelsea and Manchester United, Kanté only managed to start in one of them where he got injured and was substituted off which resulted in a United goal minutes later. While it might sound absurd, a team with Kanté is more defensively solid than a team without him. If Lampard would have learned something from his previous losses this season against United, it is to not play an all out attacking game with a dangerous counterattacking side with some of the quickest players in the League without a defensive minded midfielder.
Mateo Kovacic could definitely do the job but Chelsea would still have to play very cautiously. The four days rest Lampard's men got could also be beneficial but their fixture against Liverpool two days later would be very interesting. It wasn't clear if Kante would be fit for that game but he would certainly be missed.
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