Chelsea should pursue a Christian Eriksen for Jorginho swap

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 27: Jorginho of Chelsea is challenged by Christian Eriksen of Tottenham Hotspur during the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on February 27, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 27: Jorginho of Chelsea is challenged by Christian Eriksen of Tottenham Hotspur during the Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on February 27, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images) /

In an unexpected twist, Chelsea has been linked as the destination for a return to the Premier League for former Spurs midfielder Christian Eriksen. While another attacking midfielder seems like the last thing the Blues need, the Danish international could be a surprisingly good fit for the club.

During his time in the Premier League, Eriksen was one of the best creators and most deadly set-piece specialists. He was the creative genius in Mauricio Pochettino’s Tottenham side, regularly operating as an attacking midfielder and combining exceptionally well with Dele Alli and Harry Kane.

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The Blues already have a host of attacking midfielders at the club and on-loan, so the addition of Eriksen may not seem like the smartest move. Consider that Chelsea already has Kai Havertz—who cannot even break into the team—and Eriksen is a like-for-like replacement for Hakim Ziyech, it makes even less sense. The Dane likes to play between the lines, where Havertz operates best, while Ziyech’s role as Creator-in-Chief is what has traditionally been asked of Eriksen.

There is the obvious tendency for clubs to want to have a number of players that are creative and excellent passers in their teams. However, there can be too much of a good thing and it’s possible that having Havertz, Ziyech and Eriksen in one team could split the ball so much that none of them are affective.

There is also the issue of how Thomas Tuchel has set up his Chelsea team thus far. Tuchel has preferred a 3-4-3 or a 3-4-2-1, which only leaves space for two attacking midfielders in a traditional sense. But with Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Christian Pulisic also crucial parts of the squad, there isn’t much room for Eriksen to return to London.

An important part of this rumoured deal, which makes it one to seriously consider one, is that it’s supposedly a player swap with Jorginho heading to Inter Milan in return. There are a few ways to break down a Jorginho departure from Chelsea. One is that it could mean Tuchel sees the future of the team’s deep-lying pivot as Scottish international Billy Gilmour. Tuchel was effusive in his praise of Gilmour after the Scot laid on a perfect pass for Reece James to set up Tammy Abraham for the decisive goal in Chelsea 1-0 FA Cup win over Barnsley.

Another way to view a potential Jorginho-Eriksen swap deal is that Tuchel is going to break with all customs and place Eriksen as the deep-lying pivot in midfield. This may seem completely bonkers, but hit pause for a second to look at the manager and what he likes from his deep-lying midfielder.

The player who plays that role under Tuchel must be an excellent passer, capable of linking play and dictating his team’s first forays in attack. He has to act as the first playmaker, either passing to the wingbacks or the No. 8 and if the play is on, straight forward to the central striker—think Marco Verratti at PSG. Of course, winning 50/50s is important and Verratti is no slouch in that regard, but he was in the team for his ability to dictate and link play more than anything else.

If you look at the attributes of Jorginho and Eriksen, they are a very similar build, but the Dane dwarfs Jorginho where it counts: chance creation. During his time in the Premier League, Eriksen created 73 big chances in 226 appearances; Jorginho has 13 in 83. Therefore, if you do the math, it puts Eriksen at 0.32 and Jorginho at 0.15 per match. In a tight defending league, that’s a massive difference. When Chelsea’s best creators (Ziyech, Havertz and Pulisic) aren’t creating nearly enough, Eriksen starts to look an incredibly attractive option.

While more of the tackling, ball winning duties are left to the other midfielder in Tuchel’s two midfield pivot system, it is no less an important part of the role. Eriksen’s tackle success over 226 appearances is 71 percent, Jorginho’s sits at 54 percent. If that wasn’t an indicator enough, the Dane’s total recoveries is counted as 1,188, whereas the Italian’s is 623. While Jorginho holds a better per game ratio (7.5 to 5.2), Eriksen spent all of his Spurs career playing as a 10 or further forward; neither his primary nor his secondary role was ball recovery, yet he still ranks close to Jorginho.

In comparing the two’s successful 50/50 duels won, Jorginho’s per game rate is 0.39 or 33 in 83, whereas Eriksen’s ratio is 0.79 at 180 in 226. Eriksen’s ability to win a challenge, combined with how close he is to Jorginho in recoveries (despite it being a small aspect of his role at Spurs) shows Eriksen is just as capable of setting up a chance as he is of stopping one.

The last and most crucial aspect of why this Eriksen-Jorginho swap deal should be pursued by Chelsea is one that doesn’t show up in the basic stat columns: sideways passes. Jorginho has often been criticized for only passing sideways, and for good reason. Watch the Italian play, and for every exquisite flick around the corner, like his assist at Watford, there are hundreds of sideways or backwards passes for no beneficial reason other than to maintain possession.

The Blues have been guilty of ponderous possession under Tuchel, and while it’s still early in his reign, Jorginho’s slowing of play often robs Chelsea of a fast break forward. Eriksen might not be a conventional No. 6, but his creative instincts are undisputed; perhaps it is exactly what Chelsea need to reach that next level.

Next. Tactics and Transfers: Transformation under Thomas Tuchel. dark

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