Football is a dynamic sport and it requires flexibility. Managers tweak and change systems until they come across a winning formula. 4-4-2, 4-3-3, 3-5-2, 5-4-1, 5-3-2 are some of the formations managers try out when looking for that winning combination. Often times, this means that some players will be dropped from the team and it is only those that have shown their versatility to the coach that gets a look-in.
This is the story of Chelsea Football Club in the just-concluded 2019/2020 league season. A club known for defensive solidity conceded cheap, soft, and easy goals. The team attacked with pace, created chances regularly and scored beautiful goals. Sadly, on the other end, things weren’t so good. While the attackers did their job very well, most of the defenders and first-choice goalkeeper were below par. At certain times this season, it felt as if the team will concede a goal anytime the opponent came attacking. This was in no small way due to the shape of the team and attributes of the midfielders which left the team open and susceptible to counter-attack.
The away game at Sheffield United is a perfect summary of this situation. So much ball possession and retention didn’t count for anything largely because of how the midfield players played. At the start of the season, Jorginho was a constant feature in the side. However, towards the end, there were doubts about his future at the club. Frank Lampard deployed the Brazilian-born Italian international in his favoured deep-lying role. To be fair to him, Jorginho is a great passer and he coordinates the team’s play very well. He often orchestrates attacks from his midfield role which is only a part of what his job entails. Sadly, in spite of his impressive pass stats and contribution to the team, he is defensively suspect and this defensive vulnerability is made obvious when he doesn’t have a natural ball-winner by his side.
Maurizio Sarri bought Jorginho from Napoli because of how he wants his team to play. Although Frank Lampard wants his team to attack, he wants them to win the ball back as quickly as possible and this requires pressing for the ball instantly. This isn’t Jorginho’s strong point. He doesn’t even have the pace to do that. His role in the team is very similar to the role Andrea Pirlo played in the great Milan side. However, the difference is that Andrea Pirlo had a tenacious midfield partner, Gennaro Gattuso. Ngolo Kante could have done a similar job but his appearances and contribution to the team have been limited by injuries.
If there is any area of the field Frank Lampard has so many choices it is the midfield. Regardless of the system Lampard chooses, Kovacic is untouchable, at least for now. Kante is highly rated by his coach not just because he is one of the best defensive midfield players in the world, but because of his role in the Chelsea team and this means Jorginho may have to be left out. This is a conundrum because Jorginho is too expensive and highly-rated to be on the bench. The onus is on Jorginho to improve his game and add some extra attributes because with what he currently offers, he is limited by the formation and the system the coach chooses to adopt.