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Kante v Jorginho: Why must it be either/or for Lampard & Chelsea?

COMMENT: Jorginho and N'Golo Kante. On the surface, this is an easy decision for Frank Lampard. The new Chelsea manager won't be losing any sleep over this one. But does it have to be either/or...?

It was one the first questions put to Lampard at his unveiling last week. After a season under Maurizio Sarri. Having been asked to play further forward. And not to his absolute strengths. What does the new Blues manager have planned for Kante?

"Yeah I do [know where he will play], thankfully," was Lampard's response. "I think and I've said before Kante is one of the greatest midfielders in the world.

"My job would be to find the best position to get the best out of him in the team."

So it's easy. Kante reverts to a central role. Not out wide. Not pushed forward - as he was with Sarri. He returns to his natural position. Centre of the park. Haring around the pitch, winning tackles once, twice even three times in the same action. And Jorginho...? Well, the best he can hope for is a place on the bench - if that.

Joao Santos was quick to see the writing on the wall. Like many pundits, he was of the same mind. Without Sarri in his corner, Jorginho was sure to find himself sidelined. The Brazilian agent sending out an SOS to Juventus' new coach not to leave his protege behind.

"Sarri needs a player like Jorginho to play his game," declared Santos on Naples radio a fortnight ago. "I don't know the strategies of Juventus, we'll see. I know Sarri has arrived there recently, he will decide with (sports director Fabio) Paratici, I imagine they are talking about market objectives."

The general consensus is they can't play together. Not if Kante is to play centrally. English football, never mind Lampard's system, just isn't built for that. Two deep lying midfielders. It just doesn't work. They need mobility. Leg speed. And at least one needs to be a consistent presence in the opposition penalty area. Neither Kante, but especially Jorginho, have that in their game.

Well, at least that's what we've seen from Jorginho in a Blues shirt - under Sarri.

But away from his old Napoli coach. Away from Sarriball. Jorginho has been outstanding for Roberto Mancini in Italy's Azzurri. You couldn't get a more stark contrast in approaches to the game. But Jorginho not only adjusted to what Mancini was demanding from him, but actually added to the system Italy's coach employed for their last round of Euro qualifiers. And significantly, he did it alongside Marco Verratti, the PSG midfielder. There was no quarterback role designed specifically for Jorginho here. He needed to adjust. And as his coach acknowledged, he did.

After victory over Greece, Mancini admitted Jorginho had surprised him with the weight of his contribution: "Jorginho was already doing well at Napoli, but perhaps playing in England has given him more experience in dealing with a higher tempo and referees who let play run more."

In other words, 12 months after leaving Napoli, Jorginho has adjusted to the pace of the English game. The tempo, the relentless end to end play, he's managed to tweak his game where necessary to fit with Premier League demands. Even the harshest of his critics would concede the Jorginho we saw in the final weeks of last season was nothing like the sluggish straggler we all doubted after the Community Shield defeat to Manchester City.

So why can't he adjust his game again to suit Lampard's system? Yes, he can't tackle. But Kante can't pass, at least according to Sarri and Antonio Conte. Combine the pair and you'd have a super player. If only it was that simple...

But there is no doubt Lampard will be losing something if he makes this an 'either/or' decision. Of course Kante can pass. But not with the certainty of Jorginho. And more often than not, the reason has been the player himself. Kante simply shies away from such responsibility. An approach which would infuriate Conte during their time together. The Italian desperately tried to push Kante to take more risks with his passing, but the Frenchman remained reluctant. Whether a year further forward has lifted Kante's confidence, we'll soon see, but on past evidence, he will need someone alongside him to make the most of his ball-winning.

That solution could be Jorginho - if given the chance. For Lampard, this doesn't have to be an 'either/or' situation.


Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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