Maurizio Sarri praised an improved performance from N'Golo Kante as Chelsea returned to winning ways in the Premier League with a 2-0 victory over west London rivals Fulham.
Sarri recently offered a startling criticism of the France midfielder, a title-winner with the Blues under Antonio Conte and with Leciester City under Claudio Ranieri, who was in the opposing dugout at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
The former Napoli boss claimed Kante is not technically good enough to operate as a central midfielder in his system but, playing alongside Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic in the Chelsea engine room, he played a key role in condemning Ranieri's side to defeat and helping the Blues respond to last week's 3-1 loss to Tottenham.
Kante dispossessed Jean-Michael Seri and played in Pedro down the right side of the box, the Spaniard cleverly evading Alfie Mawson and slotting into the bottom-left corner to open the scoring.
Asked about Kante's performance in his post-match media conference, Sarri replied: "I think he played very well. He defended very well. He needs, I think, to improve a little more from the tactical point of view, but it's natural.
"In the national team he usually plays with the two midfielders. Last season, sometimes with two midfielders and sometimes with three but in the same position. So I think it's normal he needs to improve."
On Kante's positioning, he added: "Today, better, I think. When the ball was on the other side of the pitch, better. I remember only one mistake in the first half.
"With the ball on the other side, he has to stay very close to Jorginho. Otherwise it's a big problem for us. Jorginho can cut out passes from the opposition, but he's not very strong at closing the open spaces."
2 - N'Golo Kante has provided as many assists in 14 league games for Chelsea this season (2) as he had in his first two seasons with the club combined (69 appearances). Morphed. December 2, 2018
Ruben Loftus-Cheek made the points safe for a below-par Chelsea as he played a part in and emphatically finished off a fantastic move involving Pedro and Eden Hazard.
The England midfielder has now scored five goals in his last six games in all competitions and Sarri said of his form: "In the last three weeks he has solved me problems.
"In the Europa League it was the best performance from the tactical point of view. I put him on the pitch without problems and was sure about his performance."
Ranieri suffered his first defeat since replacing Slavisa Jokanovic, having overseen a 3-2 win over Southampton in his opening game in charge.
11 - Chelsea haven't lost any of their last 11 home games in the Premier League (W6 D5) – their longest unbeaten run at Stamford Bridge in the competition since August 2015 (a run of 21 games). Building. December 2, 2018
However, Ranieri was encouraged by his side's showing, and also backed his compatriot's decision to criticise Kante.
"I think we played much better today than in the Southampton match. We have to continue in this way," Ranieri said. "My players must understand better my philosophy. I play very, very fast.
"We made good decisions in a very short time. Under pressure from Chelsea, it was difficult to play. We were prepared, but now we think about the next match.
"N'Golo is a fantastic player. Maurizio is right to pick on him sometimes. Not on only him but all the players, to improve. N'Golo played a very good match today."
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