The flourishing of the Mateo Kovacic-Jorginho axis in midfield has been one of the major plus points of the season so far, and the duo have been analysing in detail the work they do in that critical part of the pitch.
Both arriving in the summer of 2018, Jorginho and Kovacic were regulars in the team last season, even if for the Croatian 90-minute appearances were hard to come by.
This year, their second in English football, they have been standout performers for Frank Lampard’s Chelsea, playing an intricate, intense brand of football that has helped get us on the front foot and regularly pin back opponents.
Their understanding, nor their good form, does not come by chance, though.
‘We try and communicate with each other and know where each other is,’ says Kovacic.
‘When I come a little bit deeper, Jorgi goes a little bit more up. In this position we change quite a lot and we like to do one-twos.
‘I like to have the game in front of me, but sometimes I try to be on the same line as him, so with one pass I can break past him. That’s why sometimes when we play as a two, we can play a forward pass to break the lines.’
‘When we look at each other, we know what the other one wants,’ agrees Jorginho.
‘When I look at him, he knows what I want to do. It makes it easier to do the job. Sometimes I can come deeper, and then we can change it up.
‘You have to look around you all the time before you receive the ball, otherwise the press comes and you can’t play forward or you lose the ball. Before I get the ball, my first look is forwards. I look all the time what’s going on around me, and I try to put the ball in front of the striker.’
‘We have both played differently this year I think,’ adds Kovacic.
‘Last year was all about one or two touches, move the ball fast and don’t dribble too much and have the ball in your possession. I like to have the ball at my feet. We have more freedom, and me and him feel a good connection.’
Jorginho was named vice-captain by Frank Lampard in the summer, a nod to his leadership skills on the pitch where he can often be seen dictating play in possession but also literally with his arms, pointing people into space.
‘You need to speak all the time,’ the Italian international emphasises.
‘Communication is key because then you can help your team-mates by saying "turn" or "play one-touch", or to be aware of counter-attacks when we are attacking, talking to the full-backs or the other midfielder.’
Kovacic is only too happy to underline the role Jorginho does on the pitch.
‘Sometimes when I don’t see my player, he pushes me that I need to be there and pay attention. In this aspect Jorgi is great. He is really good at organisation.’
As well as focusing on their own role in this Chelsea team, the experienced pair are also happy to pay tribute to another midfielder who has sometimes featured alongside them both this season.
‘We have to mention N’Golo because he is one of the best defensive midfielders in the world, and he is helping us a lot,’ notes Kovacic.
‘His ability to run and to take the ball from the opposition is amazing. It’s a quality we need in this team. We have a lot of midfielders, a lot of quality in this position, and the season is long so we can change a lot.’
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‘When you have players like this, it’s good for the team because it makes the level of the team higher,’ concludes Jorginho.
‘That’s so important because there is healthy competition between us.’