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Napoli to Chelsea, £50m

Despite being born in the coastal town of Imbituba in the south of Brazil, Jorginho – full name Jorge Luiz Frello Filho – moved to Italy as a child and, with his ability spotted early, began his professional career with Verona. He spent a season on loan at lower-league club Sambonifacese before returning to Verona and helping the then Serie B club secure promotion to the top flight of Italian football.

It didn’t take long for the giants of Italian football to circle – midway through his debut season in Serie A, the then 22-year-old moved to Napoli. He was an Italian Cup winner in his first season – he played all 90 minutes in the final against Fiorentina, impressing after his midfield partner Gokhan Inler was sent off with 10 minutes remaining – but wasn’t always first choice under then manager Rafa Benitez, and had his penalty saved by Gianluigi Buffon in an eventual shoot-out victory over Juventus in the Italian Super Cup later that year.

The arrival of the charismatic and well-travelled Maurizio Sarri in the summer of 2015 saw Jorginho become an integral part of the team’s midfield, however. The reverse triangle within Sarri’s preferred 4-3-3 formation enabled him to control the rhythm of play from deeper positions, with additional forward players in front of him and the ball playing to his impressive range of short passing.

It says much that, after Sarri’s subsequent move to Chelsea was confirmed, one of the new manager’s first acts was to bring Jorginho – who had been strongly linked with Manchester City – with him to west London for a fee of £50m. It will be intriguing to see how Sarri adapts both his own style and that of Jorginho, who has eight caps for Italy, into the much quicker English league.

Tactical analysis
Jorginho, who will wear the Chelsea number 5 shirt most famously worn by Michael Essien in the Premier League era, is a ball-playing central midfielder who likes to be the focal point of possession. His preferred playing style is to control the build from deeper areas, and then link the midfield into attack (above). His frequent movements across the midfield unit make him almost impossible to track at times, with his direct opponent often failing to block off his central access.

Despite his ability to maintain possession and build forward, he does lack a consistent and accurate longer pass – despite comparisons with the great Andrea Pirlo, this is an area in which Jorginho could improve further. However, his manager’s preferred build of short passing means it is rare that the 26-year-old has needed this particular pass in recent years. This is unlikely to change at Stamford Bridge, but the longer pass would nevertheless be a positive addition to his passing range.

Being deployed in a deeper position means that Jorginho’s goal and assist returns are consistently low. His role is to assist the assist from deeper positions, break lines and find better attacking options higher up the pitch. Despite his miss in the 2014 Italian Super Cup, he is also a frequent penalty taker, often shouldering the responsibility for Napoli in both domestic and European competition.

If Jorginho does find himself higher up the pitch, he will often move into the inside channels, most commonly on the left. From here, he can penetrate a compact defensive block, usually with clipped balls over for wingers or full-backs to move on to. This enables a first-time cross across goal, in theory for a simple tap-in for a striker or opposite winger at the far post. Towards the end of his time at Napoli, the midfielder developed an excellent relationship with Lorenzo Insigne in particular (top).

Defensively, Jorginho is vulnerable one against one, particularly when defending large spaces alone in front of goal. When used as a single pivot in possession, he is naturally responsible for large central spaces. If the ball is lost, he can struggle if teammates aren’t quick enough to support his defensive actions during transitional moments (below). Fast-pressing and quick-attacking Premier League teams such as Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City will naturally look to exploit this potential flaw, particularly if Sarri uses Jorginho as a single defensive midfielder.

Role at new club
Jorginho played as a predominantly single central pivot at Napoli, but then Sarri didn’t have a defensive midfielder anywhere near the exceptional level of N’Golo Kante. The recent World Cup winner is arguably Chelsea’s most important player – arguably even more so than Eden Hazard. It will be intriguing to see how Sarri chooses to set up with Kante and Jorginho in the same team.

The obvious choice would be to include a double pivot in central midfield (below, right), with a sole number 10 – Cesc Fabregas is one option, although so is Hazard – in front. This would provide complete defensive stability with an extra player covering the central lanes, but could possibly inhibit their short build-up. The danger is that Kante and Jorginho could suffocate one another in possession, in which case one would have to break forward into more attacking areas.

Alternatively, Sarri could maintain the single pivot with Jorginho, and push Kante slightly higher (above, left). This could become the foundation of a high-pressing team, as Kante is arguably the best ball-winner operating in world football right now. Napoli’s intense high press under Sarri complemented their short passing style, as it locked opponents deep in their own half and provided more room for them to build from deep.

The potential problem of having Kante higher up the pitch, of course, is that it takes away defensive protection in midfield. Quick and incisive forward passing from the league’s better teams would leave Jorginho isolated in defensive midfield positions.

In Jorginho’s debut appearance for Chelsea in a recent friendly against Perth Glory, he was used as a single pivot, behind attacking midfielders Ross Barkley and Fabregas (above), with Kante still yet to return from his World Cup exploits in Russia.

The Frenchman is certain to be included once returned and refreshed, however. With Jorginho another definite starter, it will be fascinating to see who Sarri prefers to start alongside them in a new-look Chelsea midfield.


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