I am not really sure how we’re still having this conversation. People get carried away like nothing and it seems as if some Chelsea fans had done when Jorginho and Kovacic were putting up sound performances again under Thomas Tuchel in the three at the back formation. Admittedly, the partnership worked well and they were moving the ball a lot quicker than we’ve seen them do before, but it really shouldn’t be a surprise that they were able to do so against the weaker teams.
Yes, Spurs are a good team, but they didn’t press us in midfield, and not many other teams did. But, our first opposition who expected to give us problems in midfield was Southampton, and they certainly did. Kovacic gave the ball away a few times in bad positions, and Jorginho’s 10 minute substitute cameo was shocking. Kante lacked the final pass, but at least looked extremely comfortable defensively, making multiple tackles and interceptions.
After Southampton, we had Atletico Madrid last night, again another obvious challenge for Jovacic. I tweeted at 18:40 yesterday that not starting the French midfielder was pretty criminal, as I simply do not think this Jorginho-Kovacic partnership is good enough for the big games. They do not have any positional awareness, and even though we had a lot of possession yesterday we failed to create much through the centre. I understand that Kante’s not amazing in progressing the ball but even Jorginho struggled to make some simple passes yesterday, and N’Golo is better defensively, so he really should’ve started, right?
Anyway, here’s a tactical analysis of some of the moments in our Champions League game which got me screaming at the TV and *specifically at Jorginho*, but Kovacic can take the responsibility with him because why not. At the end of this article I’ll try and give my solution to what I’d do in midfield, but if I’m being honest, I never have and never will be convinced by Jovacic. (Sarri Twitter please don’t come for me). All images via hdmatches.net.
Half a minute into the game, and it started off terribly. Kovacic picked up the ball on the left hand side which is fine, and had Alonso and Mount in front of him. For some reason, Jorginho runs all the way over to Kovacic. Mateo attempts to pass it to the Italian midfielder, who gets muscled off the ball like nothing, and, as you can see in the image, leaves so much space in behind him. Mason Mount had to track back and pick up a yellow card to stop their counter which is normally ruthless, and now he misses the second leg. This pretty much summed up the next 5 minutes, where we on another day may have found ourselves 2-0 down.
We lose the ball high up the pitch, which is fine. If there’s one place you want to lose the ball it’s high up, so you still have your midfielders back to track back. Oh nevermind, not with Jovacic. For some reason, Jorginho follows his man who drops deep into Atletico’s half, and obviously he was never going to win the ball when chasing someone (mainly because it’s Jorginho but I won’t let my agenda be clear too much). He gets easily turned, and the opposition had the chance to break with a lot of space. In this case, Kovacic did well and forced them to the right hand side which slowed them down, but it’s still another example of the gap between the midfielders being way too big.
8 minutes in, and I’m already on three screenshots, yikes. That distance between Kovacic and Jorginho isn’t actually that bad, but when they have 4 quite narrow as they do here, that’s a problem. Ideally, Jorginho takes a touch and passes it to Kovacic, but instead he misplaces a pass to Mount which is easily intercepted and once again they break on the counter, this time almost creating a huge chance at the back post. Kovacic is too high up the pitch to come back in time and fortunately our defence bailed us out this time.
In this image, Jorginho gets caught in two minds once again. Saul pushed forward a bit from his deeper position, and Jorginho had to choose between pressing him or sitting back and waiting for him to come. Jorginho decides to try and tackle their midfielder, but chooses 2 seconds too late and he plays a simple 1-2 with Joao Felix to go past the Italian very easily. Space is easily found behind Jovacic and they create another chance, which this time was cleared by Rudiger after some lovely football.
My stream has paused and I think I should probably leave it there as I’ve posted 4 images in 12 minutes, so I’m sure there’s a lot more in the other 80 minutes of the game which I’ll leave you to find. Next time they play together, just have a look at them, and you’ll see the amount of space they leave behind them. Here’s a clip of Jorginho getting skimmed which backs my point, and to be honest, it’s quite funny.
I’d also like to make this clear: this is not Jorginho or Kovacic slander. This is simply my opinion and I actually quite like both – I think Jorginho seems like a great presence in the dressing room and that Kovacic is a brilliant squad player to have. But are they able to take us to the next level? And while playing together? I really don’t think so.
So what would I do? It’s difficult, for sure. First of all I’d definitely start Kante – that’s a must for me. He runs around so much and is brilliant defensively – and people act as if he’s much worse than the others on the ball. He really isn’t. Then, it’s not easy, but I do want to see Mount next to him. Our good friend Konark got quite a lot of hate for suggesting this, but I really do think this could be our future. Mount mastered the #8 role under Frank Lampard, and next to Kante could show some real balance. He’s played a very similar role next to Declan Rice for England, and I have no doubts he could do the same in Blue. He’s also taking up one of the front three positions at the moment, meaning Pulisic, Havertz, and Ziyech all find themselves on the bench, but by dropping back he could open up some space for one more of our attacking threats. My next option would be Billy Gilmour by preference, but that’s not happenning, so probably Kovacic, who definitely can put in a brilliant performance when he wants. In other words, no Jorginho please. I repeat – Sarri fans please do not come for me.
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Written by Paree
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