Over a half season in and Chelsea fans are still debating the usage of Jorginho and N’Golo Kante. Kante alone makes it (partially) moot.
Maurizio Sarri has been stubborn in his usage of Jorginho and N’Golo Kante. Even when it has been costly, he has opted to keep Jorginho central as a regista and Kante higher and slightly wider.
Many pundits have questioned this. Largely, their argument is based around Kante being the best defensive midfielder in the world. Opponents of that argument will either say Kante is not actually a defensive midfielder (or never has been) and that Sarri needs Jorginho in the center to dictate play.
Usually, the argument is based on the lens of Jorginho being in Kante’s seat. There is perhaps a better way to look at it however. Kante is the best player in any position in midfield. So perhaps it is more about getting the best out of Jorginho than the best out of Kante.
Kante’s strengths come in pressing, intercepting, and tackling. Since coming to England, he has done that as part of a midfield pair, the deepest in a midfield trio, and as part of a pivot behind a 10. But regardless of how he has been used, Kante has been incredibly consistent and effective. Though he had initial wobbles this season, he quickly learned his new tasks and has arguably been Chelsea’s best player this season.
Jorginho’s strengths come in positioning, passing, and vision. Sarri uses him as a regista in the center so he can see more of the field and influence the play more frequently. This has made him a target for opposition tactics and marking him out has proven an effective tactic thus far this season. Napoli had fall backs when that happened that Chelsea still lacks.
Offensively, Jorginho is fine to have around. Defensively is where the issues are most pointed out. While he can often position himself well enough to deal with the opposition, when he fails to do so he does not have the legs to make up for it.
Furthermore, when considering Jorginho’s usage, it is important to note that he has only been used consistently and effectively by Sarri. Jorginho was a bit part player under Rafa Benitiz and other managers. He often looks a bit lost when playing for the Italian national team. Those managers tried to use him in other ways and Jorginho proved lacking.
So the Kante versus Jorginho argument may be less about keeping Kante out of position, but more about keeping Jorginho in position. Kante has shown he can play anywhere in the midfield because he is a truly world class player. Jorginho, meanwhile, is a bit of a luxury as the system very much needs to be built with him in mind. Sarri did that and Sarrismo was born.
If Sarri is to ever depart Chelsea, Jorginho is likely the player that will suffer the most. He has shown little under other managers and that is unlikely to change. Kante has been excellent under every manager he has and with a long term contract, the Chelsea hierarchy will back him for many years to come.