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Pressing Jorginho & Mateo Kovacic is the equivalent of leaving your fridge open all day

It was a pass upon which civilisations are built.

Watford’s goal appeared safe from invasion as Mason Mount trickled the ball back to Jorginho. The 27-year-old had orchestrated those around him to manipulate a pocket of space in an area in which breathing room is at its most premium.

Seconds later Jorginho’s Trojan horse of a pass had snuck its way into the back of Watford’s net, via Tammy Abraham, and Quique Sanchez Flores’ game plan had crumbled. Long live King Jorginho’s right foot.

Were the Premier League to introduce the Guti Award for the Assist of the Season, Jorginho would already have 2019/20 wrapped up after 11 games.

Imbituba- the Brazilian town in which Jorginho arrived five days before Father Christmas- immediately declared three days of celebration.

Every single Chelsea Twitter account in existence simultaneously changed their handle to @JorginhoSZN, while Google reported a 755% increase in south-west Londoners searching ‘Can I shag a pass?’.

In short, Jorginho’s moment of brilliance should become the first act on a football pitch to complete the Triple Crown of Acting and win an Oscar, Emmy and Tony in one fell swoop.

King Jorginho

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King Jorginho

While not possessing a standout moment of magic like his midfield partner, Mateo Kovacic’s role in Chelsea’s fifth-straight Premier League win was no less important.

Kovacic was often a figure of ridicule under Maurizio Sarri thanks to his hourly exchanges with Ross Barkley every game and staunch refusal to provide either goals or assists.

On the surface, the numbers don’t make for better reading under Frank Lampard. The Croatian has one assist and no goals to his name after 22 games for club and country this season.

But the statistics are misleading. Under the guidance of Lampard, Kovacic and Jorginho are fast becoming on of the Premier League’s most unpressable midfield duos.

To me, to you

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To me, to you

Jorginho’s role in beating the press relies on his metronomic passing ability and understanding of where everyone is on the pitch at all times. No player averages more passes per game in the Premier League this season, while he’s also in the top ten for through balls.

By contrast, Kovacic isn’t even in Chelsea’s top five for key passes, average passes or through balls. The part he plays in beating the press carries with it a greater risk. Kovacic is at his best when dribbling the ball through opposition lines of defence.

Kovacic averages more dribbles per game than any of his Chelsea team-mates, which is quite a feat given the presence of Pedro, Christian Pulisic, Willian and Callum Hudson-Odoi. He’s still neat in possession, boasting the best pass success rate of any Chelsea midfielder this season, but that’s not how he hurts teams.

The 25-year-old is increasingly adept at taking the ball past the first press and handing possession to one of Chelsea’s more natural attackers, as Mousa Dembele used to do with such devastating relish at Spurs.

That’s one way of stopping him

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That’s one way of stopping him

The dilemma is an obvious one for teams looking to hurry Chelsea in possession.

Sit off Jorginho and he’ll pass you to death. Press the Italy international and he’ll pop a pass around the corner, or zip a ball through the lines to release Mount and co.

Sit off Kovacic and he’s disciplined enough to keep recycling possession. Press him and he’ll get behind with a subtle drop of the shoulder and burst of pace.

Watford, Burnley and Ajax have all failed to come up with an answer to the dilemma in recent weeks. Press Chelsea at your peril.


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