SHARE

Faith can move mountains and maybe in time it can even turn Jorginho into a Chelsea fan favourite.

The Italian midfielder may not be there just yet but the past couple of weeks, fuelled by the trust placed in him by Frank Lampard, have provided firm indications that he is beginning to alter the unfair perception that had been formed during the Maurizio Sarri era.

It may seem odd considering Chelsea have won just one competitive game five fixtures into Lampard’s time as head coach but you get the sense that we are beginning to see the real Jorginho, a player no longer handcuffed by the impression of him as a teacher’s pet.

In that dispiriting 2-2 draw against Sheffield United nine days ago, Jorginho’s name was chanted for the second consecutive game. Nothing out of the ordinary for most players but quite the turnaround when you recall that on a couple of occasions last season he was jeered by his own supporters.

Remarkably, he provided his first assist since joining the club for Tammy Abraham’s second goal against the Yorkshire side but it was the smaller, unseen details – punching the ground when Kurt Zouma diverted the ball into his own net in the final minute, gesturing at his team-mates throughout – that were perhaps most instructive.

Hindsight being wonderful, it would have been easy for Lampard to usher Jorginho towards the fringes when he replaced Sarri in July. Instead he has shown belief in the 27-year-old and, with N’Golo Kante absent through injury, that persistence is paying off.

On more than one occasion Lampard has spoken of Jorginho’s leadership qualities, recently citing an ability to maintain the intensity level in training.

“He’s just a fantastic sportsman who cares deeply,” Lampard said. “When you have a training session that might fall below standard or drop for a moment, he’s the one who drives it up again.”

Early in pre-season, a training ground source told football.london, the head coach took the midfielder aside and explained what was expected from him.

That conversation was very, very positive. Lampard had already spoken publicly about Kante being one of the world’s best midfielders but he told Jorginho that he was going to be a key cog in his system and, crucially, there would be an emphasis on him setting an example for the younger players.

It is also worth nothing that Lampard watched almost every Chelsea game under Sarri and he was impressed by Jorginho’s willingness to keep showing for the ball when things were not going swimmingly.

Along with being guilty by association, he was also held back by statistical anomalies. Not least that he had failed to produce an assist despite, as Sky Sports pointed out last month, having an expected assists ratio bettered only by Eden Hazard.

His detractors argued that his pass completion rates were merely an indicator of him being too safe, a Stevie Sideways who would rather play a simple five-yard ball to retain possession instead of attempting to dissect a defence.

Yet last season he made a league-high 416 passes into the final third, fifty more than David Luiz (interestingly second across the league) and at least than 200 more than any of his other team-mates.

Dig a little deeper and you will see that he made 1,612 passes into the opposition half and the second best, Manchester City’s Aymeric Laporte, was way back on 1,352. Third was Hazard on 1,341 and the next three were all City players (Kyle Walker, David Silva and Ilkay Gundogan).

So far this season – and this may solely be a result of small sample size – he ranks 14th on the opposition half table (Harry Winks is top with 176) and second to Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope in terms of passes into the final third.

What about in his own half? This category is weighted heavily in favour of centre backs but last season he was the first non-defender and sixth overall (Antonio Rudiger and Luiz featured in the top five; Virgil van Dijk was way ahead in front).

To date this campaign, though, he is down in 30th, the fourth Chelsea player and sixth midfielder. And that indicates a more proactive approach under Lampard.

More often than not with Jorginho, and others who operate in a similar role, the low-key work is vastly underappreciated. He orchestrates so much without the ball, gesturing at team-mates, instructing them into better positions, and dropping between the centre backs to act as a quarter-back.

Facebook Comments

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here