Kovacic ready to step up and be Jorginho's Chelsea understudy - Sarri


Maurizio Sarri is retraining Mateo Kovacic to play the role of Jorginho’s back-up after Chelsea failed to sign a replacement for Cesc Fabregas.

Fabregas joined Monaco in the January transfer window, but Chelsea were unsuccessful in their attempts to sign former Zenit man Leandro Paredes, who ended up joining Paris Saint-Germain instead .

Sarri has been left looking for options to find a new deputy to his vital cog in the ‘Sarriball’ machine. Ethan Ampadu and Kovacic were both trialled in the role in Chelsea's FA Cup win against Sheffield Wednesday.

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Chelsea boss Sarri thinks that Kovacic is now capable of playing in that role after he came on in Saturday’s 5-0 thrashing of Huddersfield to replace Jorginho, who was substituted due to a minor groin problem.

"I don't know [if we will suffer for not signing a midfielder] but I have to try with our own players," Sarri told reporters at Stamford Bridge. "So, I think Kovacic could be a very good option. A very good option, then we need to recover completely Loftus-Cheek, after his back problem.

"Then, we can play sometimes with Kovacic as a central midfielder and then Jorginho will be able to rest. We are trying in training with two players; the first is Ampadu and the second is Kovacic. It may be that for the characteristics, Kovacic is more suitable for this team.

"As you know, Ampadu is more defensive. Kovacic is really close to Jorginho in moving the ball really fast at one-touch. In the future, I think he will be able to do this position well."

Sarri's tactical inflexibility has been the source of much criticism in a week when Chelsea lost 4-0 to Bournemouth, who utilised David Brooks to mark Jorginho in the club's worst defeat for 22 years.

However, Sarri was defiant when questioned about his lack of plan B and the predictability of his line-ups, in which Jorginho takes a central role. Sarri also defended Jorginho, who he believes is misunderstood, as the Premier League's leading pass maker is still to register an assist this season.

He came close on several occasions as he lined up alongside his former Napoli team-mate Gonzalo Higuain against Huddersfield and Sarri thinks Jorginho played much better against the bottom-of-the-table side, explaining what it takes to get the best out of his first signing.

"No, Jorginho played very well," Sarri added of his £57 million man. "I put Kante on the pitch after the fourth goal because Jorginho had a little problem with his groin. This was the only reason because, in my opinion, Jorginho had a good match.

Maurizio Sarri quote GFXGetty Images

"Jorginho needs movement without the ball from the other players, because he is used to playing one-touch and it is very difficult to play one-touch without the movement of the other players.

"So, if the team, like in the first 20-25 minutes, played very well with movements without the ball, then for Jorginho it is easier, I think. In the first 25 minutes we played our football because we moved the ball very fast and very well.

"There was good movement without the ball. We were really very dangerous. We didn't play with our backs to the opposing goal like in the last match, with five players doing it in the last match. We attacked the spaces and so I think that we played our football.”

Chelsea are now aiming to put a run of results together after the morale-boosting hammering of the Terriers, although February will be a tough month for the Blues with two matches against Manchester City to come, as well as games against Manchester United and Tottenham.

The undermining factor in Chelsea's efforts to comfortably secure a top-four place has been consistency, as they mix high-profile wins with embarrassing defeats. Sarri admits that he has never managed a team of players who can be so good one week, and then so badly off the pace the next.

"Not in the past [have I managed a team that's so inconsistent]," he concluded. "But my target is to improve the mentality, because if we improve the mentality I think it will be easier to arrive into every match with the right level of application and determination.

"It is not easy, of course, and it is a long way, but we need to try to improve in mentality. In every training, in every match, but we need to improve."

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