Many Chelsea supporters were relieved to see their club finally wrap up a deal for Gonzalo Higuain last week.
While the jury is still very much out on whether or not the former Real Madrid and Juventus forward can fully recapture his form, it is at least, a concession from the dugout, that a striker was needed to lead Chlesea’s blunt forward line. In the recent EFL Cup semi-final second leg against Spurs, the Chelsea attack simply had more menace and purpose with Olivier Giroud as a focal point.
The fan frustration at some of their more toothless attacking displays this season, has been channeled with growing ferocity towards Sarri’s linchpin in midfield, Jorginho.
The Italy international, has struggled to make an impact in his fledgling Premier League career. If Higuain can be the man to get Chelsea the goals they so desperately need, then Sarri’s next problem may be his blue eyed boy in the middle of the park.
Not quite the assist king
Like it or lump it, Chelsea fans are going to have to suck up the sight of Jorginho for as long as Sarri is on the touchline. For a man coveted by Pep Guardiola and hailed as one of the most gifted ball players on the continent last season, the fact his name is becoming synonymous with the stop-start nature of Chelsea’s season is an unexpected puzzle for Sarri and his new club.
Doing the rounds recently, was the startling stat that Jorginho had made almost 2,000 passes in the Premier League without generating a single assist. That figure has now swollen to 2077 in 22 top flight matches. It’s been used by some to condemn the former Napoli man’s ability and write off any impact he could yet make. However, the cold fact remains; Jorginho’s game is simply not about assists and goals. He managed just four last seasons in all competitions, and has less than 20 in his entire professional career this far. Is it right then, to judge him for something that is simply not in his game?
While it’s all well and good to chide supporters for moaning about what a player is or isn’t capable of, it’s easy to see their frustration. With no assists, no goals from open play and just two big chances created in the Premier League, its obvious why some are growing so frustrated with their big money import.
The issue for Chelsea as far as Jorginho is concerned, is that he is more a well oiled cog than an eye catching dynamo in the midfielder boiler room. There is no doubt that he is a superb footballer, capable of keeping things moving and helping to set the tempo of Sarri’s style. When that tempo becomes bogged down and slows though it can appear like players of his ilk are merely recycling the ball whilst avoiding any killer passes.
Where other players offer goals, tough tackling, flare and place, the subtle quality of Jorginho’s game can get lost in translation and bogged down in the endless flow of possession without any obvious cutting edge. This came to a head in recent displays against Arsenal, Newcastle and Southampton, when fan frustration boiled over to open hostility toward their number five.
This problem has been compounded by the fact N’Golo Kante has been dislodged from his natural position, to make way for his midfield colleague.
Kante is one of Europe’s premier defensive midfielders. However, Sarri’s baffling decision to crowbar the France international into his side by pushing him into a more advanced role to make way for his former Napoli favourite has caused near outrage amongst the Chelsea faithful. Jorginho has also been caught out in that role too. The number five just cannot cover the necessary ground quick enough and Chelsea have been exposed on the counter attack by speedier opponents who have targeted this new weakness.
While none of this has been particularly encouraging reading for Chelsea fans, all is not yet lost for their big money signing.
Just by having somebody lead the line at home to Spurs, Eden Hazard was able to drop back into his role in behind and cause the chaos he is capable of. A more obvious offensive plan could cool some of the growing heat coming from the terraces at Stamford Bridge. It could buy Jorginho more time to be appreciated for the ball carrying work he does, especially if results stabilise and the club’s grip on the Champions League spots tightens.
It does seem though that Sarri may have to tweak his formation somewhat to solve his double headed midfield problem.
Jorginho could use some help in front of the back four. Kante is not a top class creative player; in fact he is quite ordinary when asked to do play that role. If Sarri were to try and drop the World Cup winner, in alongside Jorginho, it could pay dividends.
Jorginho could benefit from another water carrier next to him with real pace, to free him up to get forward more. It could well be the catalyst to finally unlock his potential and win him some appreciation from the supporters.
If Sarri continues to isolate him in midfield though, he will continue to be a weak link to be exploited by ruthless opposition and a stick with which to beat the Italian manager with. It’s a problem he must look to solve quickly as time waits for no man at Stamford Bridge.