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Napoli's Jorginho: The No.6 Liverpool desperately need

Liverpool have essentially behaved like a more refined version of Arsenal in recent years. On the pitch, defence has been their obvious weakness – they had the worst goals conceded record in the Premier League top six last term outside of the Gunners, and this remains the case at present in 2017/18. And off the pitch they, like their North London league rivals, have continually prioritised attack in the transfer market.

However, this year's January window was when the two clubs' philosophical similarities came to an extravagant end. Where Arsene Wenger splashed out on yet more offensive talent, Jurgen Klopp's squad was substantially bolstered by the £70 million purchase of central defender Virgil van Dijk. Finally, Liverpool had succeeded in strengthening their back line. Their focus then immediately turned towards bringing in a quality No.6, and Jorginho has since emerged as their primary target.

As we at Tribal Football recently wrote, the Italian has also been linked to both Manchester City and Manchester United. He would improve both Pep Guardiola and Jose Mourinho's midfields, but the truth is that Liverpool need him more.

Klopp has generally chosen between one of Jordan Henderson or Emre Can when deciding who should fill the holding role in his midfield three. Both players bring energy to the position, but neither are a natural fit. Henderson is better used in a box-to-box role, where his tactical deficiencies – chiefly a lack of positional discipline – can be masked. Can, meanwhile, has a similar desire to push forward, and his aggressive mentality isn't particularly well-suited to sitting at the base of midfield. Furthermore, he looks set to move on this summer when his contract comes to an end.

Jorginho would be a serious step up in class for Liverpool in the No.6 role. During his formative years with Verona he was seen by some as the creative heir to Andrea Pirlo; that those comparisons don't sound silly gives an indication of his level.

After initially struggling to assert himself at Napoli, he has been thoroughly rejuvenated under Maurizio Sarri's guidance, establishing himself as one of the finest deep-lying playmakers in Europe over the last three years.

He now plays with a Busquets-esque grace and clarity, forever probing and adjusting to situations with a subtle precision. Indeed, he and Busquets could have enjoyed an epic pass-off had former Italy boss Giampiero Ventura selected Jorginho more often during the 2018 World Cup qualification campaign. As it was, Ventura ignored his best playmaker for the most part, Italy crashed out, and he was sacked.

To say Jorginho's absence was the sole reason behind the Azzurri's recent failings would be naïve – there were myriad other issues at play as they lost out to Sweden in a play-off last November. However, he is seen as pivotal to his country's footballing future. And, if rumours are correct, pretty soon he could be key to Liverpool's, too.

Few in the world are as efficient or consistent in their passing as the 26-year-old. He has completed more passes per game than any other player in Serie A for three consecutive seasons, while his pass accuracy currently stands at an admirable 89.3 per cent. What those numbers essentially say is that, for every ten passes he makes, he misses one. Considering the sheer quantity of passes he plays, that is an exceptional record.

And his accuracy is only matched by his range. Primarily, he keeps things simple, combining with his central defensive and midfield team-mates. But he also looks constantly to break the lines, and, every now and then, he will perform a stunningly executed lofted through ball, as he did to find Jose Callejon for Napoli's equaliser in the 4-1 win over Lazio in February.

Jorginho is more than a nice right foot, however. In fact, to limit one's analysis of the player to his passing quality would be reductive, so well-rounded is his game. His movement is astute, and he is incredibly sensitive to what is going on around him. This is something he has developed over time – just as opponents have learned to cut him out of build-up, he has learned to adjust his positioning to find space. Now, when he faces regular pressure, he is comfortable moving forward beyond the press and occupying a position between the lines.

This intelligence carries over into the defensive phase, too. Sarri's Napoli like to press high, higher even than Klopp's Liverpool, and, as the deep-lying midfielder in a three, Jorginho is responsible for preventing any glaring holes from opening up between midfield and defence, as well as making crucial interceptions whenever the opposition do break out.

The player's positional sense would only make Liverpool's pincer-like midfield press even more difficult to penetrate. In addition, his composure under pressure and the consistency and efficacy of his passing would add further incision to their attacking play. The big question is: will they be able to fend off the competition and bring him to Anfield?

For many, the prospect of Jorginho at Manchester City is a frightening one. He is, quite simply, perfect for Guardiola's system. And, should Manchester United decide to properly replace Michael Carrick, the Italian would be one of the strongest available candidates. Such interest, along with the possibility of Napoli winning the scudetto, will only increase the player's transfer fee come the summer.

But, as they showed with their pursuit of Van Dijk, Liverpool are willing to part with the big bucks when they feel it is necessary. And, if they're serious about the No.6 role, they should pursue Jorginho with the same intensity.

About the author

Blair Newman

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