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Tuchel uncovers Chelsea’s new Kante after Sterling ‘intensity’ claim

“It seems another muscle injury, the hamstring. He said he feels it pretty strong. So no good news.” Thomas Tuchel exhaled after a frustrating draw with Spurs.

This all felt so painfully familiar for N’Golo Kante at Stamford Bridge in recent years. In what was proving to be one of the midfielder’s most dominant performances since the famous Champions League winning run under Tuchel in 2021, there cruelly was a setback.

The Frenchman had demonstrated all his famous traits against Antonio Conte’s favoured Spurs side. His energy was unrelenting, and his anticipation second to none. This performance vindicated everything Tuchel had said in May when he referred to the 30-year-old as ’s .

But then, a stretch too far, and he was on the turf. That familiar gaze towards the dugout and that slow walk off the pitch flanked by the medical staff. Sadly that image has come to summarise Kante’s time at Chelsea since the Europa League final in 2019 as anything with the ball.

When will he be back? Given his setbacks before, it could go on for longer than predicted. Kante cannot be replaced easily, he is one of the most outstanding midfielders European football has ever seen. However, the man who replaced him proved why there is a reason for optimism.

Conor Gallagher was told in the US that he would be a part of Tuchel’s plans this season, but preceding the clash with Spurs, there was still the chatter of a late exit. Given he was the final substitute at Goodison Park deep into added time and no start on Sunday, some potential suitors might have gained encouragement.

But the injuries to both Kante and Mateo Kovacic, who missed the Spurs game due to a knee issue, opens the door for Gallagher early into the season.

He was quickly into the action in a frantic closing period when it looked like Chelsea could add a third. A ferocious press onto a loose pass by Yves Bissouma into the feet of Pierre-Emile Højbjerg won Chelsea back possession with Spurs’ defence exposed.

Better composure and a sharper touch inside the box could have got him into a shooting position. But if offered a small glimpse into the intensity Tuchel requires from his midfield. An option he did not have last season whilst Gallagher was on loan at Crystal Palace.

“Once you dig deeper into his data, beyond his goal involvements and into his high-speed intensity, over 30km-an-hour, the amount of repetitive intensity, it’s outstanding.” That was Tuchel speaking about Raheem Sterling on the pre-season tour and what he hoped he’d bring to his attack this season.

Similar praise could be given to Gallagher and what he brings to the game, along with his threat in front of goal.

Chelsea’s intensity dropped through periods of last season when Kante was out injured, and Jorginho was greatly struggling with fatigue. With Gallagher now involved and the five-sub rule being introduced too, Tuchel has more options from the bench, hopefully matching the intensity required throughout a testing season.

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