Gus Poyet says that Chelsea have an embarrassment of riches in midfield but that N'Golo Kante is not the player he once was because he remains out of position under Frank Lampard.
Lampard has continued to play Kante on the right side of a three-man midfield in the majority of his game after Maurizio Sarri came in for criticism for putting the France international in a more advanced position.
Kante was injured for Chelsea's last few matches ahead of a break in play in football across Europe due to the coronavirus outbreak. The Blues won't play football again until April 30 at the earliest as the British authorities focus on reducing the spread of Covid-19.
Upon their return, Lampard's team will face difficult choices in midfield with Kante, Mateo Kovacic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek set to come back from injury lay-offs. Poyet believes we may not see the best of Kante again until he plays in a move defensive position.
"In very important games Lampard went with Kante, Jorginho and Kovacic until the last month with injuries," Poyet began in a conversation with Goal.
"Those are the three most experienced players who played under Sarri but now they play with more freedom, especially in Jorginho having more possibilities to move around to go sideways and forward. Last year, he was very static. There are plenty of options.
"In Kante's first year, he came to Chelsea and I made it public that he is the best central midfielder in the world. After a previous season as a number eight in that different position, we lost how important and unique he was as a player.
"I hope he can get back to that. In his best position, he is unique and there's not many players that can give you what he can do right now."
Meanwhile, amid an injury crisis ahead of the stoppage in play, 18-year-old Billy Gilmour emerged as a breakout star to fill the gap with so many sidelined with injuries.
The Scotland Under-21 international produced wonderful displays against Liverpool and Everton in the last week of football in England.
Poyet has urged caution with the youngster who has earned universal praise after seeing the same happen to former Blues youngster Josh McEachran who ended up having a career at Championship level following a similar breakthrough.
"I think that it was important for the club to see him before the end of the season," Poyet added. "He showed how mature he is especially in possession. Again, it isn't a matter of performing once or twice but every month, season through season.
"We should be happy to see him and hope he keeps developing his game slowly to become a better player because it is early doors. I really enjoyed watching him and he could be an interesting player for the future. I prefer to make sure people take time with him and not go the other way.
"I was at Stamford Bridge a long time ago when a young Josh McEachran was making the team at 17. The whole stadium were talking about him after that game. People were saying he was the next [Fernando] Redondo or [Pep] Guardiola.
"Unfortunately it didn't work out like that despite a great football career in the Championship. The idea to know is that it is difficult and [to know] how to progress in the next few months and years."
Upon Chelsea's return to action, they will compete in the Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League - albeit having lost the first leg of their last-16 clash to Bayern Munich 3-0 at Stamford Bridge.
Poyet assesses Lampard's first season in charge of Chelsea as broadly a success but that defeat against the German champions serves as a wake-up call.
"They started very well," he concluded. "I thought it was a good surprise because of the changes the team had with young players coming in the team to play week in week out. It get them extra enthusiasm because they were waiting for the opportunity for a long, long time.
"It gave a boost to all those young players because they spent so much time on loan without the chance to play for the first-team. These are the ones who proved they were good enough to play. They were given an extra bit of adrenaline.
"We know as experienced people in football that the energy will drop. It is impossible to maintain it, especially for a young player. Then, when the team had a bad spell that was expected rather than planned. You have to be realistic to know it will happen.
"Everyone started being too critical about the team. They are in a good place right now. In saying that, it is a normal season of good moments but then wake up call especially in the Champions League."