With a transfer ban on, Chelsea had to rely on two things this season. They had the obvious dependence of their young academy graduates and they had to fall back on their established players to lift the team in a tough position. While the performances of young players have caught everyone’s attention, the showings of their settled players like Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho hasn’t gone enough of it.
Both of them became rather criticised figures under Maurizio Sarri last season. A goal that Chelsea conceded at the hands of Tottenham’s Son Heung Min was all that Blues fans needed to expose Jorginho. His lack of pace was a troublesome factor.
As for Kovacic, many thought that he wasn’t good enough off the ball either. In a system that was still settling into the squad, he wasn’t doing much to dispel that gloom either.
But this season, both of them have been almost unlocked. While Sarri did do more good than bad for Jorginho during their time at Napoli, the Italian is close to his best under Frank Lampard this season. Both have become key players in keeping the play ticking and linking the midfield to the attack.
This season, Kovacic boasts of a passing accuracy of 89 percent. That is the highest tally for any regular Chelsea player this season. What makes it even better is that he is playing an average of 61.8 passes per game for the Blues. He has one goal and three assists to his name, but he isn’t meant to score too much.
Not just that, the former Croatian promise is completing 2.7 dribbles per game. That has been very important to making the Blues midfield dynamic. It shows how Lampard has done well to unchain him and give him the freedom to move. There is no burden of playing in a structured system.
There is a lot of crispness in his passing. And the same goes for Jorginho, who is a little more liberated than last season. The team is playing a much more familiar system and it is helping him. Under Sarri, he did know the system. But the inability of other players to fit into it was never a help.
This season, the former Chievo Verona man has a tally of 70 passes per game– behind central defenders in Kurt Zouma, Fikayo Tomori and the returning Antonio Rudiger. Jorginho has been key in switching play from side to side and dictating it from deep. This has helped him complete 3.7 long-balls per game.
He has also been dribbled past less than last season. The drop has been from 1.7 last season to 1.4 this season. That is a minor improvement. But he is winning more tackles and interceptions than last season. He has won 2.3 tackles per game this season, completing 2.2 interceptions per game.
Recently, Chelsea skipper Cesar Azpilicueta made his admiration for the midfielder clear. He praised how he has been adapting to Lampard’s style.
The Spaniard told reporters: “I think this season he has adapted to the [new] manager. He prefers to play a bit longer, to switch the play with longer balls to get more commitment in the final passes to get more chances for the strikers.”
And Azpilicueta hits the nail on the head. That doesn’t just apply for Jorginho. It applies for Kovacic too. Both have been adapting very well to a new approach and are coming to their best once again.
Kovacic’s development had stagnated at Real Madrid, as he could play only make ten starts in the 2017-18 season. But when the other Chelsea midfielders like N’Golo Kante, Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are out, he has stepped up to recover his career.
With the January transfer window now open, both these players will keep their places. Others can learn from them and make the Blues a better team and solidify the top four spot.