The news reports by various journalists in the media have stated that Chelsea and Juventus are interested in a player exchange deal, with Jorginho going to Juventus to join Maurizio Sarri from Chelsea, and Miralem Pjanic going the other way as a like-for-like replacement. Since it has caused a great deal of talk among Chelsea fans, here we take a look at whether this deal should happen or not, and why.
As we all know, Maurizio Sarri and Jorginho moved to Chelsea from Napoli together, and it was quite clear that Sarri wanted to build his team around the central midfielder, where every moves starts from him at the base of the midfield. He did not want a traditional defensive midfielder occupying that role but opted for someone who can distribute the ball better and start passing moves from the back. After Sarri departed to Juventus, Jorginho stayed back at Chelsea. Some of the Chelsea fans still viewed him as “Sarri’s son”, and Jorginho, despite all of the criticism that he received the previous season, kept his head down and kept working hard to get into their good books. After manager Frank Lampard used him in more or less the same position as Sarri and his overall performances also started to make a mark, some of the fans started backing him again, and Lampard made him vice-captain of the club, due to the leadership skills and experience that he demonstrated on the pitch.
Jorginho brings the leadership and experience that this young team very badly needs. Apart from this, he is still very good at what he is best known for, playing out from the back. His main weakness is that he does not have the qualities for what is known in today’s football jargon, a “PnP Defensive Midfielder”, someone who is a destroyer playing at the base of midfield and who can provide cover to the backline, which perhaps leaves us a bit exposed in terms of defending when the opposition breaks away, while Jorginho is higher up the pitch. In terms of playing the ball out, and in terms of passing, vision and range, Jorginho still has a lot to offer.
Miralem Pjanic, was of course a quality midfielder and is another great midfield passer, who is playing the same role as Jorginho did, under Sarri’s system. Since we all know what role Jorginho plays, let us have a look at what Pjanic brings to the side and how is he currently performing for Juventus, so that we can compare the two players and get an idea whether this move is feasible and whether it is a good move for both sides.
Pjanic generally plays as the deepest midfielder, playing the role of a playmaker in a deep lying role, just like Jorginho did under Maurizio Sarri. His positioning is mostly between the defenders and the midfield, slightly above the first pressing line of the opposition, so that he can move around seamlessly and take the ball from the defenders. This is a key position to break the first pressing line, and so that he can effectively take the ball out and distribute it further forward, or so that he can open up other passing avenues for the defensive line. Once he receives the ball, he would then become the centre point for the opposition to press, in which case, he can either make a turn and pass it forward, or can play quick passes to the free defenders so that they have enough space to move it forward. This essentially what he offers under Sarri. Apart from the manager’s role, his own individual ability with passing and movement is very good, and he is an effective player when it comes down to making passes that break the line. His creative passing is something that he was known for throughout his career and that is something that has continued even in the new role. He is constantly trying to find spaces through which he can pass the ball to the forwards to set them free and into space. His passing range and his ability to break through the lines makes him an asset for the team.
However, his defensive contribution would be the same, if not worse than Jorginho. He is not someone who has the traits of a defensive midfielder, and would struggle to shield the back four, especially in the Premier League, and even if he does manage to adapt to that role in the Premier League, he would have the same problems as Jorginho did in his first season, because the English game is more intense, and much more physical than the technical game played in the Serie A, which is why he would struggle in that position initially at least. Also, as far as playing out from the back and having a good passing rate is concerned, Jorginho already offers almost the same at Chelsea that Pjanic does, and is more settled into the side now, and has developed a chemistry with his teammates which would, again, require time for Pjanic to do. In spite of all the qualities that Pjanic has had in his career, he has become a little sluggish and whether he would be able to adapt to the Premier League at this stage is doubtful. He is already 30 years old, and if we are bringing him in to do the same things that Jorginho does, it would be a regressive move, considering that by the time he would fully adapt, he might have his best years behind him, and we exchanged him for a player who had already adapted into that role and was doing the same job, in his prime years, while developing young Billy Gilmour to fill in his boots in one or two seasons, if we prefer to play a playmaker in that holding midfield role. The only thing that would make selling Jorginho a sensible move is, if we want to play a PNP Defensive destroyer in that position and get a world class defensive midfielder as a replacement for him. Exchanging him for another similar kind of player who wouldn’t even be at the same level as him when he arrives would not be the brightest of choices, and would only be a sensible and positive move for Juventus and Sarri, especially when there is no need for us to be making that kind of move. Apart from that let’s not forget that we are already low in the leadership quotient in this team, and Jorginho has become a very important part of the squad in terms of being a leader as well.
Having said that, let me also bring out some stats so that we can see both their contributions and see if Pjanic would really be a significant upgrade on Jorginho or not, and whether the stats back up the claim that I have made above, that we should not do this deal at any cost.
Statistical comparison of Jorginho and Pjanic.
The goals and assists is probably one of the lesser important stats in the position that these two occupy, but let us begin with that. Pjanic has 3 goals and 2 assists in the Serie A in his 22 appearances, while Jorginho has 4 goals and 2 assists in 26 Premier League appearances. More or less similar. Pjanic attempts 0.9 shots per game (“SPG”), while Jorginho has a lower ratio at 0.5 SPG. Pjanic averages 1.2 key passes per game, to Jorginho’s 0.8. The dribbling ability is similar, with Pjanic averaging 0.6 dribbles per game to Jorginho’s 0.5. Jorginho gets dispossesed a little more than Pjanic, averaging 0.7 times per game, while Pjanic stands at 0.4 times per game, but that could be down to the difference in the intensity of the Premier League and the Serie A. However, in terms of bad control per game, Jorginho does it 0.6 times a game, to Pjanic’s 1 per game. Its clear that Pjanic has better overall offensive stats than Jorginho, but they are not significantly better, and neither is Jorginho significantly worse off, keeping in mind that Jorginho has played more minutes as well, and the difference between the qualities of both squads, the kind of tactics that Sarri and Lampard employ and the relative dominance of Juventus in the Serie A.
As far as passing statistics are concerned, Pjanic averages 1.2 key passes per game, which is better than Jorginho’s 0.8. Jorginho has a higher average passes per game with his 71.6 passes per game with a success rate of 88% to Pjanic’s 66.3 with a success rate of 89.8%. Jorginho also plays 3.7 long balls per game which is higher compared to Pjanic’s 3.4. In terms of through balls as well, Jorginho has a better rate as compared to Pjanic this season. So we can see that Pjanic clearly is not a significant upgrade in terms of passing over Jorginho, who is at the same level, if not better, in a tougher, more non-technical league.
This is one crucial aspect that we need to look into, to see if Pjanic edges Jorginho defensively, and whether he could cover the defense better than Jorginho. As per the eye test, I would say that they would both be pretty similar, but Jorginho would trump Pjanic defensively as well, but let us see what the statistics say.
One criticism that is often levelled at Jorginho is that he makes too many fouls because of his lack of physicality and pace and because he struggles to catch up to opponents. However, he is the better of the two in terms of fouls per game, averaging 1 foul per game, while Pjanic averages 1.2. They are both almost the same in terms of clearances per game, being dribbled past per game, and blocks made as well, Pjanic with slightly higher numbers than Jorginho, with 1 clearance per game as opposed to 0.9, 1.5 times dribbled past per game as opposed to Jorginho’s 1.7, 0.4 blocks per game to Jorginho’s 0.2.
All these numbers of course need to be taken in context and taking into account the fact that Jorginho has played more games, the intensity and toughness of the two leagues, difference in tactical set ups, and the quality of players in the squads. Apart from this, also take into consideration that this season has been perhaps one of the worst in Miralem’s career, which would mean that these would only decline further if he went to the Premier League next season.
After taking both the eye test and the statistics into account, as I mentioned earlier, it looks to me as if this move would just be a like for like swap, and a regressive move in terms of the fact that Pjanic is 2 years older, looks like he is in decline which is why Juventus are looking to offload him as soon as they can, and would take time to fit into the Premier League. I would rather just keep Jorginho, get Billy Gilmour and Ethan Ampadu ready to play in that position, week in and out while Jorginho provides experience, leadership and stays an important member of the squad until it is time to part ways, unless we want a pure defensive midfielder to play that role, in which case, we can take the cash from Juventus, and buy someone world class instead of Pjanic.
Therefore, even though Pjanic is not a bad player at all, for me, its a huge NO DEAL for the simple reason that it doesn’t make sense.
Statistics Courtesy – WhoScored.com
Edited By Martell Dublin