Vice captain Jorginho is coming off his suspension. He must prove his worth to Chelsea after Billy Gilmour and N’Golo Kante showed he was redundant.
Jorginho has been suspended since the dawn of time. Or at least it feels like it due to Covid. His last match was on 3 March against Liverpool, which he was not suspended for be telling did not start in either. Billy Gilmour took his spot that day and against Everton. N’Golo Kante took it against Aston Villa.
A flag was already raised when Jorginho was not selected to start against Liverpool despite his suspension being known at that point. It was a huge call to pick Gilmour over him and the Scotsman delivered. Against Villa when play ultimately resumed, Kante showed that he can very much play as the center most and deepest midfielder after nearly two years of some fans saying he A: lacks the “technique” and B: he has never played as a holding midfielder before.
But really what Gilmour and Kante showed is that Jorginho’s skill set is a bit redundant in the squad. As Chelsea continues to strengthen, eventually someone will have to be cut out and the redundancies are going to be top of that list. With the suspension over, Jorginho now has to prove that he can do something Gilmour and Kante cannot.
Jorginho’s played a freer role this season that last and has performed better for it. Mainly what he offers is a constant outlet for the ball. He is advertised as a tempo setter in the middle who can also sweep the ball up as it comes through to him.
The reality is that he often hits the ball first time, every time, meaning there is no real tempo to be set. He leaves long passes to others around him and while his defensive numbers are good, they also hide how often he is caught out leaving the back line exposed. Not to mention how he sometimes lacks the motivation to come back and defend at all. He is not a holding midfielder, but he occupies the spot of one and on some days that difference in skill set shows.
But most off all, the question has to be asked as to what exactly he adds to the team when he does play. That is easier to see after three games without him. Gilmour was a terrier in the middle of the park, hunting down everyone on the ball. Kante is traditionally that, but against Aston Villa he merely read the game like a book and swept things up centrally.
On the ball, Gilmour is looking for those quick one two’s that lure the opponent in just like Jorginho does, but he also is keeping his head up looking for the attacker all alone waiting for a long ball. Kante, often derided for his supposed lack of passing ability, was spraying the ball all over the pitch against Aston Villa with superb ability.
If Gilmour and Kante both have a better variance of passing, and both are hungrier or plain better in defense, where does that leave Jorginho? That is a question only he can answer on the pitch. He proved himself better this season than last, but now he has his first genuine competition for a starting spot after his suspension.
If he starts against Manchester City, and that should be a big if at the moment, he will need to hit the ground running to show he is not redundant in light of his time off. No player wants to be the one easiest to lose and Jorginho needs to show that.