Maurizio Sarri and Jorginho are finally being forced to adapt at Chelsea after their seamless Serie A transition

Marco Silva's Everton laid a blueprint on Sunday for lesser sides to stifle the West Londoners' creativity

Tom Kershaw
Monday 12 November 2018 17:16
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Premier League weekend round up: November 10-11

Midway through the first half of Chelsea’s bleak draw with Everton on Sunday, Maurizio Sarri stopped sucking his Superking fag-butt to scold his midfield maestro. Like an aggrieved father telling off his first-born son, the Chelsea manager began remonstrating with Jorginho half in fury, half out of hope.

Why couldn’t he take a stranglehold of this game with the same leather grip as the others? Why couldn't he suffocate their opponents with the same passive death by passing which has rendered Sarri the most successful debuting manager in Premier League history?

In response, an already weary looking Jorginho simply opened his arms and shrugged as if to say ‘what more can I do papà?' Because what Marco Silva’s Everton had done so astutely - which no other English side had managed up until that point - was to swamp the Italian midfielder's dominion with a high-press which kneeled at the 26-year-old's feet rather than spreading itself thin in pursuit of Chelsea's back-four.

In doing so, Everton crowded the midfield by forming a ten-man two-tier line of defence in contrast to Chelsea’s six, turning the little alleys of space within which Jorginho usually lurks into congested cul-de-sacs.

Richarlison dropped deep from his usual roaming forward role to hassle Jorginho from behind while Gylfi Sigurdsson pressed the linchpin from the front, making more tackles than any other Everton player from his No 10 position, and eventually inciting the Italian's studs-up lunge which should have seen him red carded.

Unlike past Premier League games, there was no time for the Italian to nonchalantly nudge the ball around the base of midfield, take focus of the scene in front of him and wait for the decisive moment as Eden Hazard darted across his lens.

Instead, it was the rather less poetic ponderings of David Luiz who Everton granted such space in exchange for bottle-necking the centre of the pitch. Luiz saw more of the ball on Sunday than any other player, while compared to his 107 passes and 112 touches against Crystal Palace last weekend, Jorginho had just 50 and 60 respectively against Everton.

And by neutralising Jorginho, Everton brought Maurizio Sarri’s Roman Road from defence to attack to a standstill. Without Jorginho’s provision, Hazard had to drop from his usual cavalier role in the final-third and into the heart of midfield to get on the ball and into the game, by which point there were already a hoard of Everton players waiting to hound him.

Only once Sarri altered his formation in the second half, and replaced Jorginho with Cesc Fabregas, was the Belgian able to find time in attacking positions where inevitably Chelsea’s best chances came.

So now Everton have laid the blueprint for lesser sides than Silva’s to follow. Because what is certain is that Jorginho’s role in Sarri’s side can't change. The Italian is a deep-lying playmaker, not a dynamic box-to-box midfielder like Mateo Kovacic, Ross Barkley or Ruben Loftus-Cheek.

Nor is he defensively specialised which is why Jorginho occupies an anchored role in the midfield, leaving N'Golo Kante to scurry round in front like a wild whippet, creating the smokescreen from behind which he can govern the game - an immediate swap of Kante's position made upon Sarri's arrival, initially scoffed but now proven a necessity.

David Luiz made more passes and had more possession than any other player

When that shelter is breached, opponents can counterpoise Chelsea’s two best players for large parts of the game. Because each time Jorginho's metronomic passing and puppet-string pull over the pitch are constrained, the likelihood of Hazard procuring a match-winning moment is lessened too. Opponents able to see the Belgian’s sparks of skill and acute swivels from afar, rather than being blindsided on their own offside line with his back to them.

Hazard is the shot of Grappa to Sarri’s Chelsea. The aperitif and pallet-cleanser which closes proceedings. Jorginho is the fine wine which flows before, leaving sediment on every sipping move, which when corked like on Sunday leaves the bottom of the glass bare.

Sarri and Jorginho's transition to life in West London felt so seamless up until this week. Intermittent spells at the top of the table, in cahoots with Manchester City and Liverpool to become runaway leaders from the off.

But maybe now the definitive moment has arrived when the paternal pair will be forced to adapt to the dank ale of English football, rather than sheening it their own smooth spritz like in Serie A.

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