Since football returned, no Chelsea player has endured more differing fortunes than Jorginho.
Before the coronavirus pandemic brought life to a halt, the Italian was a firm favourite for Frank Lampard. He had made the second-highest number of appearances, featured in 88% of games and was only behind Tammy Abraham for goals.
Yet now, it could not be more dissimilar.
Jorginho has not played a single minute since the restart, becoming a familiar face on the Chelsea bench. He has missed all five games since football resumed – matching the figure from the first seven months of the season.
The season pre and post-lockdown has shown a divide, but the story of the entire season reveals more.
When Jorginho is on the pitch, the Blues have won just under half (46%) of their games. But when the 28-year-old has not been involved, their win percentage shoots up to an astonishing 80%.
What looked to be an opportunity proved to be another nail in the coffin, during the late stages of the win over Watford. N’Golo Kanté picked up an injury and was forced off, but Jorginho stayed rooted to his seat. Instead, Billy Gilmour was sent on for the final 15 minutes, a huge statement sent out by Lampard.
For a man who has been playing constantly since arriving from Napoli, Jorginho finds himself in an awkward situation. His absence from the pitch has caused doubt over his future, especially amid recent rumours of a reunion with Maurizio Sarri at Juventus.
There is no questioning Jorginho’s value at Stamford Bridge. His appointment as vice-captain at the start of the season proved his worth, valued as an experienced leader by Lampard. He has captained the Blues on three occasions, serving as a reliable deputy to César Azpilicueta throughout the campaign.
However, the Chelsea armband does not always guarantee stability. Gary Cahill found himself ostracised from the squad, despite being the official captain. Even John Terry could not cement his spot in his final season, though he remained a crucial figure off the pitch en route to the Premier League title.
His significance comes not only through status, sitting as Chelsea’s fourth top scorer and highest scoring midfielder this season. The Italian has been ever reliable from the spot, with some crucial penalties against Liverpool, Ajax and Arsenal. His four league goals have won three points- the Blues would be a position worse off without them.
But despite his key role, Jorginho has failed to retain his spot.
The return to full fitness of Kanté and Ruben Loftus-Cheek did not help his case, along with the breakthrough of Billy Gilmour and the form of Ross Barkley. Yet competition has always been tough in a seven-strong midfield, and it just so happens that Lampard’s current setup is working – albeit without Jorginho.
Jorginho is a professional, and will understand a tactical decision when he sees one. The current midfield three operates with one defensive midfielder, protecting the defence and cleaning up around the back. Kanté is the best man for that job, and now that the Frenchman is fit again, he is one of the first names on the teamsheet.
The new tactics are working: Chelsea have won three of their four Premier League games since the restart, with just one defeat in eight across all competitions. As the race for Champions League football heats up and with an FA Cup semi-final around the corner, it is crucial to stick with what is working.
But the million-pound question remains: does Jorginho have a future at Stamford Bridge?
He has played 7% fewer games this season, missed six consecutive games and looks to be falling out of favour. Chelsea could cash in by allowing him to return to Italy, increase their transfer budget and invest elsewhere – after all, that defence does need work.
But Jorginho is still a valuable piece of the Chelsea puzzle. He is still one of the Blues’ most important players, remains a fantastic midfielder and is not yet done in west London. If the club are going to let go of a midfielder, it should not be Jorginho.
It is going to be a huge summer for Jorginho and Chelsea, in a dilemma which must be resolved over the next few months. These final few games will make or break the midfielder, as Lampard must decide whether he remains in his plans for next season.
In the curious case of Jorginho, it is time for a decision.
Read more of my work on Nischal’s Blog: nischalsp.wordpress.com