Jorginho is one of the most unique midfielders in the modern game. The Brazilian-born midfielder is not your traditional N’Golo Kante-esque ball-winner nor is he anywhere near as mobile as the Frenchman. But his tactical/spatial awareness, footballing intelligence and superb on-the-ball presence help to make him one of the very best defensive midfielders around. He’s incredibly vocal on the field, guiding his teammates through every pass and when he receives the ball for himself, he always seems to know exactly the right pass to make in a split-second decision. Jorginho is arguably the closest thing the footballing world has seen to a Sergio Busquets in years and Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea is the perfect place for the 26-year-old to showcase his talent. Here is how Jorginho has been integral to Chelsea’s unbeaten start to the 2018-19 Premier League season.
FREEING UP N’GOLO KANTE
Through Jorginho’s ability to break-up play and win back possession, Napoli were always on the front-foot. A similar style of play has already been seen at Chelsea as his role as the deep-lying midfielder has allowed N’Golo Kante to get further forward. In doing so, the non-stop running machine that is Kante has been able to do what he is best at, winning possession back, only higher up the field. This has provided Chelsea with the opportunity to spend even more time in the attacking third as Jorginho’s always been there to provide cover. Kante and the other players around him like Eden Hazard or Pedro have been able to press higher up the pitch, always knowing they have that extra man in midfield in behind if all else fails. For that matter, having Kante and Jorginho as cover has really helped to simplify Pedro’s game. The Spaniard has now scored 3 goals from 4 matches to start the season and is looking back to his best self.
The Kante-Jorginho relationship has fascinatingly been able to bring the best out of both players despite the Frenchman shifting to a position he might be less accustomed to. It’s even been similar to how Leicester City won the Premier League through use of a midfield two between N’Golo Kante and Danny Drinkwater. In that case, Drinkwater’s composure and natural ability to pick out a pass was complimented exceptionally well by Kante’s tireless work-rate in winning the ball back. A similar partnership has already been seen between Kante and Jorginho under Maurizio Sarri and that is definitely promising for Chelsea fans moving forward.
THE LYNCHPIN REGISTA IN A 4-3-3
Maurizio Sarri stuck with the 4-3-3 formation throughout his time at Napoli and Jorginho was integral to their success. The formation is fantastic for creating natural triangles throughout the pitch. With the Brazilian playing as the deep-lying playmaker (the regista) in front of a back-four, he has been essential in build-up play and the triangular shape that he’s provided has helped his defenders resist pressure and maintain possession as they look to play in the more talented players higher up the field. Every single time Chelsea get the ball they are looking to play in Jorginho, something Napoli also tended to often do. Jorginho topped the passing charts for three straight years in Serie A, averaging 99 passes per game. In four games so far this season he’s averaged 104 passes per game, more than any other player in the league.
But the defensive midfielder doesn’t just pass for the sake of it. He often spreads the ball wide or high up the field through incisive chip-passes or through balls. Dries Mertens used to love to get on the end of his through balls for Napoli and that could be one of the reasons why Maurizio Sarri has stuck with the more dynamic Alvaro Morata in his starting eleven so far this season. But as already mentioned, when the Blues win the ball back, Jorginho loses his marker and looks to make a one-touch or two-touch pass, high up the field. He’s always aware of his surroundings and always aware at any given moment exactly what the best passing option is.
LATERAL SHIFTING & SPATIAL AWARENESS
Chelsea, just like Napoli under Sarri, play high up the pitch with a near-Liverpool-level of intensity. With Jorginho in the team, a certain sense of balance is achieved as his composure slows everything down and normalizes things when possession is regained. The wingers who had been pressing high up the field and had run out of position, are then able to quickly get back into position and create space as Jorginho slows the play down. When out of possession, Jorginho shifts laterally depending on what side of the field the ball is on, providing extra support to Barkley (Fabregas) on the left or Kante on the right in winning the ball back. His intelligence off-the-ball has already frustrated many Premier League midfields and in the most recent game against Bournemouth, the Cherries found it incredibly hard to break through the lines because Jorginho and his midfield partners always knew where and when to evade space in the midfield third. If in time he faces an intensive man-marking system or comes up against a team that dominates possession like Manchester City in their 2-0 Community Shield win, Jorginho’s role could become nullified in the team. But in the meantime, no other Premier League side has quite figured him out and he’s been integral to the Blues’ unbeaten start to the Premier League season.
Jorginho is a magnificent footballer who does the simple things that are so often underappreciated. His role in pushing N’Golo Kante forward has allowed the Frenchman to take-up positions he would never have been able to under Antonio Conte and that has been integral to Chelsea’s high-pressing game and winning the ball back straight after they lose it. The extra cover in behind that the Brazilian-born midfielder has provided has been fantastic and if Chelsea are going to have any shot at winning the Premier League title this year, Jorginho is going to be absolutely essential.