Thomas Tuchel has taken Chelsea fans by storm, finally managing to convince the doubters after a massive victory in the away leg of the Champions League Round of 16 match against Atletico Madrid. Tuchel’s tactical changes are a breath of fresh air—a combination of Antonio Conte’s formation and a new twist on Maurizio Sarri’s possession-based style—around Stamford Bridge. The football may not always be pretty, but it’s earning results.
One of the main complaints fans have had throughout the German’s first month in charge is his “boring” (for lack of a better term) starting XIs. Tuchel has revived the careers of individuals like Marcos Alonso, Antonio Rudiger, Cesar Azpilicueta and Jorginho, all of whom saw their minutes dwindle under Frank Lampard. While the changes have been met with some skepticism, Tuchel’s team has yet to lose a match under his tutelage. Perhaps the most criticized pairing is the midfield pivot of Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho.
More from Chelsea FC Starting 11
- Bournemouth vs Chelsea: 1 Blue Mauricio Pochettino should drop
- Bournemouth vs Chelsea: 3 Blues who must start
- Predicted Chelsea lineup vs Bournemouth: Palmer starts in 4-2-3-1
- Chelsea vs Wimbeldon: 2 Blues stars Mauricio Pochettino should drop
- Chelsea vs Wimbledon: 5 Blues who must start
Let’s address the elephant in the room: Jorginho is wildly popular off the pitch—amongst fans and his teammates—but Blues fans are harsh on his play more often than not. Maybe it’s because of his association with Sarri, maybe it’s because of his gigantic price tag or maybe it’s because of his slow, methodical style. Regardless, one thing is clear and that’s the fact the previous three managers (and even Pep Guardiola) rate the midfielder. Jorginho is a very talented footballer, whether you like it or not.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s dive into the veteran pair in the middle of the park.
The midfield pivot passed its first true test since Tuchel took over, playing a crucial part in beating Atletico in the UCL. Diego Simeone’s side seemingly pressed around the pairing, but their positioning and passing played an important role in Tuchel’s tactical plan to beat the La Liga leaders. Both Kovacic and Jorginho are known to be extremely intelligent passers, even if some of those passes go sideways or backwards.
The only criticism of the pair in the Atletico match is they had a tendency to step on each other’s feet sometimes in the attacking third. Lampard countered this by having Jorginho drop into the back line when in the XI, but Tuchel has yet to work this issue out. Regardless, if a side’s biggest problem is two midfielders not spreading out effectively in the final third, there’s not much to worry about.
When Tuchel gave both individuals lifelines, many people worried about Jorginho’s lack of athleticism and Kovacic’s inability to play a defensive midfielder role as well as N’Golo Kante. However, after the Atletico game, it’s apparent they can step up against even the most physical midfields in Europe. Jorginho is one of the most calming presences in possession anywhere in world football. Further, Kovacic’s unmatched dribbling ability, adept positioning and ability to weave through any part of an opposing formation while holding onto the ball help Tuchel’s Blues play their preferred style. This doesn’t mean they are off the hook for everything though.
Fans should—rightfully—withhold judgement on the duo for the time being. That being said, the encouraging signs are there. Jorginho and Kovacic seemingly get better and look more comfortable with one another each game they play side-by-side under Tuchel’s leadership. The potential is present, but supporters should be cautiously optimistic. The win over Atletico doesn’t mean the “Jovacic” midfield is the way forward; much like a loss wouldn’t have signified the end. Fans need to continue to evaluate the pairing on a game-by-game basis and give them time. They are passing all tests with flying colors at the moment though.
What are your thoughts on the Jorginho-Kovacic pivot? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!