In Chelsea’s 2-1 victory over Newcastle at the end of August, Jorginho broke the club record for successful passes in a single game with 158, beating the entire combined Newcastle team by 27 in the process.
Only four games into his Premier League career, it’s clear that the Brazilian-born Italy international is an integral part of Maurizio Sarri’s new philosophy at Stamford Bridge. His impact has given Chelsea fans the belief that they can finish in the top four this season, which is currently priced at 4/11 on Paddy Power.
Let’s examine the role Jorginho plays and why he’s so important for the Blues.
The fact that Jorginho was Sarri’s first transfer priority upon joining the club – and that Chelsea were willing to beat rivals Man City to his signature – underlines his importance to the Sarri system.
During his time at Napoli, Sarri was a master of repurposing players to match their previously under-the-radar attributes, something which allowed the midfielder to flourish.
After struggling for chances under previous coach Rafael Benitez, Jorginho became the linchpin for the ‘Sarrismo’ style Napoli were renowned for.
In a system built on relentless pressing followed by quick, one-touch passing triangles, Jorginho became a deep-lying playmaker whose role was to remain at the base of a midfield three as a protective screen whilst always making himself available as a focal point for rapid distribution of the ball.
This is a role that he has continued seamlessly at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea, under Antonio Conte, had previously directed much of their attack through their overlapping full-backs and wingers. The distinct lack of central options, with the defensively-minded pair of N’Golo Kante and Tiémoué Bakayoko, was frequently a point of concern in their disappointing title defence.
In contrast, Chelsea now employ a style designed to control as much of the pitch as possible using possession-focussed, one-touch passing systems with Jorginho as the constant pivot.
Sitting in front of a more traditional flat back four, he provides the kind of defensive solidity that N’Golo Kante had been so masterful at in seasons past, albeit with less pure physical dynamism.
In all his games with Chelsea thus far, Jorginho has slipped back into defence when under pressure, in order to make up for the loss of the back three that the side had become so accustomed to.
It’s in possession, however (something Chelsea have enjoyed a great deal of), that his talents truly shine. His responsibility is to be a pivot of a passing triangle wherever his teammates are: whether it’s a fullback opening space, a striker dropping deep or one of his midfield colleagues, Jorginho is always there to facilitate possession.
In that sense, he is the conductor of Sarri’s philosophy on the pitch. As was prominent in pre-season, during this period of the old guard adjusting to the new, it is the old familiar Jorginho who is directing where his teammates need to be to prove most effective.
Maurizio Sarri himself has admitted it will take Chelsea months to adjust to his methods, which is why it is all the more beneficial that the playmaker at the heart of it is able to direct matters instinctively, demonstrated by a 92% passing accuracy.
His versatility of passing also contains echoes of teammate Cesc Fabregas, being equally dependable for both simple exchanges and incisive balls in order to set up an attack.
Having a deep-lying defensive playmaker (as well as an extra man in midfield) has also allowed Kante to explore a previously unseen attacking aspect of his game.
‘Sarrismo’ relies on an intensive high press to force opposition mistakes which, with Jorginho serving as an anchor behind him, a more free-roaming Kante is almost tailor-made to do. His boundless energy is now able to be served as a more box-to-box player as opposed to a limited defensive midfielder.
As Sarri rightly predicts, there is still much work to be done. Despite almost 81% possession against Newcastle, Chelsea’s passing could at times be predictable and methodical, with players clearly not yet instinctively able to break the opposition open.
They have also been vulnerable at the back, most prevalent in the 3-2 victory over Arsenal, which may raise questions as to Jorginho’s defensive role in the side.
It is clear, however, both in his acquisition and the way that he has immediately become a vital cog in the Sarri machine, that Jorginho is very much a part of the ‘spine’ of this new-look Chelsea.
Offering an offensive potency, which was so sorely lacking last season whilst masterfully orchestrating the possession stranglehold that will surely become the Blues trademark, it will be an exciting time to see just how much the midfielder can push Chelsea forward in their pursuit of Champions League football once again.