Chelsea metronome Jorginho would have been perfect for Pep's City

Jorginho Chelsea 2018-19
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After just three friendlies with his new club the classy midfielder has shown why he was identified as the Premier League champions' top target

Pep Guardiola is still putting a brave face on Manchester City’s failed pursuit of Jorginho as he prepares to face the Italian midfielder and his new club on Sunday.

"The blow would be to come here when he prefers Chelsea,” Guardiola contested at his Friday press conference, yet the Premier League champions were so confident that they would get their man that they had not lined up any back-up options, and they are still scouring the market for potential alternatives.

"Every player has his own abilities; Jorginho is a special player for the way we want to play,” Guardiola said, the regret starting to creep through. “But we'll try to find one.”

But City do not want to follow up one mistake with another by spending money on a player who would fill a gap in the side, but not necessarily bring the requisite quality.

They have been linked with moves for Miralem Pjanic, Mateo Kovacic, Thiago Alcantara and, in recent days, Marco Verratti, but the club have insisted they do not want any of them.

They are keen to sign Sporting youngster Rafael Leao, but their interest in him predates Jorginho’s u-turn and, in any case, sources close to the player have told Goal that he is unsure about a move to the Etihad Stadium. 

There is a sense that City are working on something before Thursday's deadline but, as it stands, Guardiola is petitioning the UK government to hand a work permit to Douglas Luiz, who struggled for game time on loan at Girona last season, so that he can help fill in for Fernandinho at the base of the midfield.

It is not an ideal situation, and the Catalan knows it. Not least because he has already seen how Jorginho has helped change Chelsea, alongside their new boss Maurizio Sarri.

“I saw three games against Spurs, Inter and Arsenal and immediately I saw they got it; he did it,” Guardiola said of Sarri’s immediate impact at Stamford Bridge.

“The team already, in a short time, plays like he wants. Of course, he needs more time to work everything but the ideas are already there.”

He did not mention Jorginho by name but Guardiola could not have failed to notice the midfielder’s influence. The Italy international has slotted into the system as if he were still playing for Napoli

Guardiola quote

Most of the Chelsea players, even the ones who are still on holiday after the World Cup, are not accustomed to Sarri’s style of football, but Jorginho worked with him for three years in Serie A and in these early stages he has become the on-pitch leader.

In Chelsea’s three pre-season friendlies so far, the games Guardiola has seen as he prepares for Sunday and beyond, Jorginho has been the fulcrum, constantly demanding the ball from his centre-backs and also dropping into wide areas, proving his ability to run the show with delicate passes in midfield, and hit accurate long balls over the top.

Videos of his performances posted on Twitter have served to thrill Chelsea fans and frustrate City’s.

Short highlight packages highlight how the 26-year-old has been gesturing to his team-mates exactly where they should be to receive his passes, and how he has led Chelsea’s pressing when they are out of possession by gesturing to the players ahead of him where they should be to cut off passing options.

Jorginho has quickly become the most vocal player in the Chelsea team (albeit a weakened team) despite the fact he speaks little English. He has mastered the phrases he needs to get his message across, while his passing and movement speaks for itself.

Guardiola knew all of this, of course, and he would have known exactly how he would have fitted into this City side.

Guardiola quote

Jorginho has already helped Sarri get his fundamental ideas across but he would not have done that at the Etihad; he would have helped take City to the next level.

The biggest factor in City’s dominant title victory last season was that Guardiola’s players knew exactly what he wanted – in the final months of the campaign the team did relatively little in training, as they generally already knew what to do.

That should mean that a disrupted pre-season should not have a major bearing on City’s title defence; once the players get their fitness levels up after a couple of games, they should find their old rhythm pretty quickly - and it looks as though few of their title rivals will be able to do enough to bridge the gap, Liverpool’s impressive summer business notwithstanding.

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That is why City are in no rush to sign a player for the sake of it – they are still well-placed to defend their title despite Jorginho’s last-minute snub.

But the regret is that he would have helped take Guardiola’s team on to even greater heights, particularly as far as the Champions League is concerned, and certainly much sooner than if they wait 12 months to bring in a player of similar calibre.

City will still be a fine side without Jorginho in their ranks but, on Sunday, he will have the opportunity to show that it could have been even better.