By Wepea Buntugu
When Chelsea bought Jorginho from Napoli in the summer, it could be said that they were sending a message to the rest of the league. This message was furthered with the appointment of former Napoli boss Maurizio Sarri as head coach. The Stamford Bridge side were committing to a new style of football, away from Conte’s 3-4-3 formation, and recruited the best duo in Naples to help usher in this new-look Chelsea.
The two complemented each other well at Napoli. The Italian manager helped Jorginho discover his best form, and Jorginho as the the master orchestrator directed a very talented Napoli team to produce some of the most beautiful football seen in Europe. The Gli Azzuri may not have won any silverware during Sarri’s three-year term but the San Paolo stadium was always treated to a serving of sumptuous soccer in a style increasingly being dubbed as “Sarriball”.
This revives a long and bitter debate: Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte won the Premier League with Chelsea by employing an unapologetically defensive and pragmatic style (this holds true more for the former than the latter). They will forever be remembered as Premier League winners, however they played. Sarri’s Napoli however finshed third in their Champions League group last season, and were runner-ups to Juventus in Serie A. Setting an unwanted record as the first Serie A team to collect more than 90 points and not win the league. The Neapolitan’s finished with 91, four points behind Juventus. This will leave doubt in the minds of some Blues fans, but in the end time will tell.
Jorginho began his Premier League campaign on a good note. In scoring his first goal from the penalty spot, the midfielder showed a glimpse of the composure and pure class he possesses. With a hop and jump he dispatched the spot-kick, laying down a marker for what he was to provide. Against a very open Huddersfield side, Jorginho had a field day.
Being a bit of an unknown entity enabled him to control the game with relative ease. Moving Chelsea upfield at will, but more content to keep possession, playing in triangles with David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger. That allowed Huddersfield to gain possession high upfield at times and Chelsea have improved that to enable them to keep possession against teams that press very aggresively.
N’Golo Kante is one who had his position in doubt, with the signing of Jorginho. The French midfielder, who has done his best work directly in front of the defence, is sure to be moved further upfield by Maurizio Sarri and this, many believe, may hamper his defensive work. Sarri has put Kante on the right side of a three man midfield and has asked him to provide more offensively. This change has paid dividends with regards to his offfensive output. Kante has already tripled his goal tally for the whole of last season – including one in the win over Manchester City – and is 5 shots off his shots total for last season as well. As for his defensive exploits, a look back at Sarri’s Napoli may provide some answers.
Back at Napoli, Sarri employed Allan on the right side of a midfield three. One of Sarri’s first purchases, Allan provided three goals and five assists in his first season, but more importantly he provided 109 tackles second only to Atalanta’s Marten de Roon. This proves that Kante can still perform his defensive duties and at the same time prrovide a differnet kind of threat going forward.
Jorginho, who is now the centre-piece of Sarri’s machine, has continued where he left off last season. He has broken the Premier League record for most passes in a single game after playing 180 passes against West Ham on a day where Chelsea huffed and puffed and played out a goalless draw. On a day where Jorginho passed his way into the record books, his critics came out of the woodwork. They claimed he provided no forward threat and ‘passed the ball for passing sake’. This was definitely very harsh, Chelsea’s best two opportunities a wild shot by Willian from inside the six-yard box and a close-range chipped effort were both assisted by Jorginho.
It brings to light something Jorginho said when he joined the club saying “I think I can fit, it depends on who else is around me – I need players with the same characteristics that I have”. This is one of the biggest problems facing the Italian midfielder. The players that are around him are simply not good enough to execute the style of football that Sarri wants this team to play. Eden Hazard, Kante, Kovacic are quality but honestly players like Giroud, Willian and Pedro are past it. Morata was never good enough and for Chelsea to reach the heights that Napoli reached at their peak under Sarri (With some trophies), they need to buy the right players. Jorginho will give you nothing but the best but without the quality around him, Sarriball will never take off and the “Smoking Tactician” may be walking out the there sooner rather than later.