By 90Min
November 01, 2019

Yeah, we get it.

Fikayo Tomori's a monster, Mason Mount's a genius, Christian Pulisic's 'Captain America' and Tammy Abraham is a Didier Drogba re-gen - we get it.

But in and amongst Chelsea's flying start to the season under Frank Lampard is a duo, a duo widely criticised in their debut seasons at Stamford Bridge, but also a pair that have slipped under the radar when talking about the Blues' early success under their new manager.

That's right, it's time for the limelight to shine on Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic, for once.

The pair arrived in west London in the summer of 2018, with Maurizio Sarri bringing Jorginho with him from Napoli and Kovacic initially joining the club on a season-long loan from Real Madrid.

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Playing as the 'regista' - a deep-lying playmaker who dictates everything, pretty much - in Sarri's 4-3-3, Jorginho enjoyed a fine start to his Chelsea career. However, as teams started to suffocate the Italian high up the pitch, his effectiveness as a 'tempo-setter' dwindled and despite being the king of 'robbed assists' (apparently), Jorginho simply became known as the fella that took N'Golo Kanté's position. Chelsea fans' chants of 'f**k Sarri-ball' towards the end of the campaign were as much of a dig towards him than they were to his Dad... sorry, Sarri.

Similarly, Kovacic endured a forgettable maiden season in the Premier League. Making 32 appearances in the league, the Croatian registered just three assists and four... shots on target from his number eight role. A 'nothing' player, right?

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Well, many saw the ex-Real Madrid man in that light and despite serving part one of their transfer ban, Chelsea were able to secure his services for a seemingly hefty £40m fee.

Fast-forward a few months and now we are here, hi. Frank Lampard's Chelsea are on the rise, only recently having a seven-game win streak snapped by Man United in the Carabao Cup. Their surge in form post-August/ early September has seen the Blues move into fourth spot in the Premier League, while back-to-back away wins in the Champions League have seen them reach the summit of Group H at the halfway point.

So, while much of the credit goes to the youth and Lamps' overall trust in it, the performances of last season's forgotten men in the centre of the park can't be overlooked.

Early on in the season, it was clear to see that the Chelsea faithful were warming to Jorginho. Their distaste at his conservative nature under Sarri has turned into adoration for the Italian playmaker.

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The difference in his statistics this season compared to last are not as stark as the change in his reputation, but they do hint at the more dynamic and direct style of football Chelsea have played under Lampard this season. 

The 27-year-old has attempted more long passes (4.1 from 2.8), makes more key passes (1 from 0.8), dribbles more (0.6 from 0.4) and has more shots (0.6 from 0.5), all per game. And the fact that his pass success percentage has gone down (87.6% from 89.3%), highlights the more audacious style of football the Blues are playing under Lampard, rather than the repetitive circuits and patterns that we saw with Maurizio. 


With Kanté missing most of the season thus far, Jorginho's defensive ability - that was certainly questioned last season - has been put to the test early on. But through ten games, Jorginho has made the most tackles (25) and interceptions (20) in the Chelsea squad, also out-performing Liverpool and Manchester City’s midfield screeners Fabinho and Rodri in both metrics.

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Whether Lampard has opted for a 4-3-3, a 3-4-2-1 or a 4-2-3-1, Jorginho has been a mainstay in the Chelsea midfield and his leadership qualities have led him to becoming Cesar Azpilicueta's vice-captain. The Chelsea boss was impressed by the Italian's show of character in a tricky debut season and has described Jorginho as a 'driver, on and off the pitch'.

Jorginho has certainly seen his reputation take a different trajectory this season, and he's enjoyed sharing the midfield with another player who has seen his credibility sky-rocket among the Chelsea faithful. 

Despite appearing fewer times than Jorginho, Kovacic has certainly staked his claim for a consistent spot in Frank's starting XI when Kanté eventually returns. The signs for a Croatian renaissance came early on in the season with the 3-2 away win at Norwich where Kovacic was superb, putting in his finest display in a Chelsea shirt. Since then, the box-to-box midfielder has put in a few standout performances - notably against Ajax and Burnley in the past ten days.

During those outings, Kovacic displayed his elite dribbling ability - one that can be likened to Eden Hazard - as he was able to progress play with the ball seemingly glued to his feet from any position on the pitch. No Chelsea player has more successful dribbles per 90 minutes than the Croatian (2.2). 

He excels with the ball at his feet, and his tenacity out of possession means he complements Jorginho well in the centre of the park - while the Italian attempts to read the game and intercept, Kovacic has the energy to press higher up the pitch.

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Ok, his production in the final third may still be poor and is what's keeping him from reaching the next level, but the job he's done this season, filling the void left by Kanté, has been superb and he has proven he can become an integral part of Lampard's Chelsea alongside Jorginho in the coming years.

So, next time you're watching Chelsea blitz through another sorry Premier League opponent, instead of tweeting about how Tomori has to start for England at Euro 2020 or that Pulisic is the finest American to ever grace the Premier League, take a look at the grafters in midfield. The dribbling of Kovacic, the intelligence of Jorginho - they've been brilliant and have left their boss with a selection headache when N'Golo returns.

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