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Sarri's double dilemma: How do Chelsea get the best out of both Kante & Jorginho?

07:30 GMT 02/12/2018
N'Golo Kante Jorginho Chelsea
The Italy international's arrival at Stamford Bridge has forced the Frenchman into an unfamiliar position, prompting criticism from frustrated fans

The complaints came thick and fast after Chelsea's humbling defeat by Tottenham last weekend.

Disgruntled supporters claimed that N'Golo Kante is being played out of position, Jorginho has been worked out and Maurizio Sarri needs a Plan B.

'Sarriball' had been quickly heralded as a bold new philosophy for the historically more pragmatic Chelsea but the radically new approach is now being scrutinised after an ignominious end to the club's 18-game unbeaten start to the season.

In Sarri's defence, though, he had repeatedly shot down claims that his new team were legitimate Premier League title contenders, pointing out that his project was nowhere near as advanced as those of Manchester City or Liverpool

Furthermore, the 3-1 loss at Wembley felt like it had been coming, after a number of underwhelming performances – particularly from a defensive perspective – in recent weeks.

The match against Spurs was labelled "disaster" by Sarri, who was unhappy with his side's defending from front to back, as each and every player failed dismally to adhere to a very strict pressing system that is designed to limit the space offered to opponents between the defensive, midfield and attacking lines.

As a result, Sarri this week arranged one-on-one meetings with his charges to address what he described as "a lack of determination".

The message is clear: Sarri expects the squad to adapt to his formation – not the other way around. As we know from his time at previous club Napoli, the Italian will not deviate from his tactical plan and it was telling that he blamed the implementation of his system, rather than the system itself for the Tottenham defeat.

That means that he will continue to use Kante as a box-to-box midfielder, as he will only consider genuine playmakers for the role at the base of the midfield.

“I think, as you know, I want to play the central midfielder as a very technical player – a Jorginho or Fabregas," Sarri said in response to Goal 's question about his formation at a press conference on Wednesday.

"I don't want Kante in this position. Kante, in the match (against Spurs), wanted to solve the match after the first 15 minutes but in the wrong way. He lost his position.

"He attacked too much the other box. And I think this is not one of the best characteristics of Kante, but it was only a reaction to the difficulties.

"Maybe it's only a question of time. But Kante has to stay near to Jorginho, especially when the ball is on the other side. When the ball is on the left, he has to stay very close to Jorginho.”

The Kante criticism comes just as the Frenchman is awarded a new five-year contract worth £290,000-a-week. He remains one of Chelsea's most valued players.

But, he and Jorginho, Chelsea's £57 million summer signing from Napoli, should be bossing their opponents – not struggling alongside each other.

However, tellingly, it is Kante rather than Jorginho who is being asked to adapt his game. The Brazil-born Italy international is fundamental to Sarri's system and he has been playing in the exact same metronomic manner since the Tuscan took charge of Napoli in 2015.

Indeed, it is worth pointing out that Jorginho initially struggled at the San Paolo, after being asked to play out of his favoured central position by former Partenopei boss Rafa Benitez.

So, it is Kante who must change and the stats show the former Leicester man is shooting more in the league this season, averaging one effort on goal for every 90 minutes for the first time in his Stamford Bridge career.

His defensive contribution in the league has dropped, too. He is now averaging 1.85 tackles a game – down from 3.39 – while his interceptions rate has also fallen, from 2.55 to 1.31.

It has been argued that Sarri should allow the two to switch positions but this simply will not happen. Jorginho, who is averaging 99 passes a game in the Premier League, is the man that he wants taking the ball off his two centre-backs, and that will not change.

That does not mean, though, that he does not have to improve. Last season at Napoli, Jorginho was more effective in all aspects of his play.

He was creating twice as many chances per game in Italy and his completed passes, interceptions, tackles and ball recovery averages were also higher than they have been so far in the Premier League.

So, while Kante's task is to adapt to a new position, Jorginho's job is to adapt to a new league. 

All calls for Sarri to change the make-up of his midfield will fall on deaf ears. Helping his players come to terms with the demands of 'Sarriball' will be the only matter on his mind right now.

That means his focus will be on helping Kante become more confident and effective in the final third and figuring out a way to ensure that Jorginho cannot be shut down by a man marker, as he was against both Everton and Spurs.

There may be more criticism from frustrated fans in the coming weeks but, as anyone who followed Sarri's Napoli will know, he will not be swayed. There will be no attempt to come up with a Plan B. His only concern will be making Plan A work even better.