Weekend tactical talking points: Jorginho is the pivot Chelsea cannot do without

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Jorginho - Weekend tactical talking points: Jorginho is the pivot Chelsea cannot do without - PA
Jorginho - Weekend tactical talking points: Jorginho is the pivot Chelsea cannot do without - PA

It was in the balance at half-time. Mateo Kovacic’s magnificent pass and Romelu Lukaku’s subsequent shark-eyed finishing meant Chelsea were a goal to the good, but Aston Villa had crafted the better chances and Edouard Mendy was conducting a goalkeeping masterclass.

Enter Jorginho. Forty-five minutes later, Chelsea had cruised to what evolved into a perfunctory 3-0 victory after Tyrone Mings gifted Kovacic a second and Lukaku thrashed home a third in added time. Once again, Jorge Luiz Frello Filho, the current Uefa men’s player of the year, had quietly made all the difference.

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel had plumped for debutant Saul Niguez to start in the midfield anchor role. N’Golo Kante’s increasingly troublesome ankles ruled him out and Jorginho had played three tricky games during the international break, three more than the well-rested Saul.

As Tuchel acknowledged, the gamble failed. With Villa’s Jacob Ramsey snapping at Saul’s heels like an especially annoying puppy, the brutally exposed Atletico Madrid loanee repeatedly squandered possession as, overwhelmed by the maelstrom swirling around him, he endured a traumatic introduction to English football.

On a simple level, with 29-year-old Jorginho on board, the hole in Chelsea’s midfield was plugged and Villa were increasingly forced wide where their threat was marginalised. More subtly, Villa head coach Dean Smith explained how, with Jorginho, “Chelsea made the pitch bigger, that made the distances we had to cover bigger and we couldn’t cope”.

Once seen as the crab-like embodiment of Sarri-ball, Maurizio Sarri’s doomed short-passing game which floundered in the Premier League, Jorginho began to blossom under Frank Lampard. But, as with so many around him from Marcos Alonso to Antonio Rudiger and Kovacic, he has flowered under Tuchel. His short passing remains exemplary, but once Callum Hudson-Odoi was switched to wide left after Cesar Azpilicueta’s introduction, Jorginho had an outlet for his more expansive distribution.

A master of the understated, the unflappable Brazil-born Italy international oozed serenity. Soon, Ramsey was made to look like the tiro he still is and he was withdrawn before the hour was up. The hitherto gaping gap in Chelsea’s central midfield would never be re-opened and with Jorginho as their chaperone, Chelsea’s back three exuded new-found assurance.

“He is a very strategic player,” purred Tuchel. “He implements the rhythm for our game and this is what he did tonight. He was strong during build-ups and he found the gaps behind the high pressing of Aston Villa. That is why he is important. He is a top player and he is full of confidence.”

How Brighton are turning XG into G and draws into wins

By Sam Dalling at Brentford Community Stadium

Is the South Coast tide turning? Four games into their fifth straight top-tier season and Brighton are enjoying their best Premier League start, with nine points from 12.

Much was made of the Seagulls’ xGD (expected goals for, minus expected goals against) last year. On that metric, Graham Potter’s side would have finished fifth. Yet only the relegated trio won fewer games, and they ended 16th. Their issue? An inability to get tight games over the line.

In each of the previous two campaigns, Brighton have had a league-high 14 stalemates. Saturday afternoon’s west London clash was heading that way too. Then came Leandro Trossard’s late moment of inspiration, a spectacular curled effort nestling in the corner. Arguably Brighton were fortunate victors: they had just one other shot on target, Danny Welbeck failing to apply a finish to match tricky Trossard’s clever reverse pass. Their xG for the match was just 0.2.

But Brighton were sound defensively, even after Adam Webster was forced off early. Having weathered Brentford’s storm – albeit courtesy of some wayward finishing from Bryan Mbeumo – they exerted more control as the game progressed. Then one moment of quality separated the sides. Three touches and bang; three points. Shades of smash and grab but it was highly functional.

So, what has changed? Not a lot. “It’s not like we are reinventing the wheel,” said Potter. And he is correct. They already had the base. It is early days but Brighton are currently outgunning expectations, with five goals scored (xG of 3.9) and just three conceded (xGA of 4.2). While points are earned in reality rather than expectation, if Brighton can stay the right side of those numbers, they will fancy their chances of surpassing their best Premier League finish of 15th. Their best ever Football League finish is 13th back in 1981-82. Why not?

Broja might be Southampton's answer to the void left by Ings

By Tom Prentki at St Mary's

The famed Southampton youth production line has run dry in recent years. Last season both the club’s under-23s and under-18s finished bottom of their respective divisions.

Signings at the top end of the club’s frugal recruitment budget have not worked out and this summer high earners such as Mario Lemina and Wesley Hoedt were finally moved on.

Time, then, for a change of strategy. Southampton now seek to persuade the brightest young talents at Premier League academies elsewhere to come to the south coast and contribute immediately to the first team.

So far the signs are promising. Tino Livramento has arrived from Chelsea for a meagre £5 million, played in all of the Saints’ Premier League fixtures and turned in performances that have already pushed his value closer to the £40 million buyback clause agreed by Chelsea at the point of sale.

Another to have joined from Stamford Bridge, on loan for the season, is Armando Broja.

On Saturday at St Mary’s the 20-year-old striker’s 15-minute cameo, during which he almost scored twice, was enough to convince Southampton supporters that this new approach to recruitment is beginning to pay off.

“Today I have seen why we signed him, why the scouts wanted to sign him,” manager Ralph Hasenhuttl said. “He had a bit of a slow start, but now he’s moving in the direction I want to see.”

There was nothing slow about the English-born Albanian international during his short appearance in the goalless draw with West Ham, for whom Michail Antonio was sent off in the final moments.

Traore’s half-time switch of wings helped Wolves finally find net

By Arindam Rej at Vicarage Road

Adama Traore's half-time switch of wings helped Wolves end a goalless start to their Premier League season that lasted over three-and-a-half games.

Bruno Lage, Wolves head coach, could finally celebrate Premier League points for the first time and deserved credit for the reshuffle that opened the floodgates.

Having lost three successive games 1-0 against Leicester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United, faling to turn shots into goals, they went into half-time at Watford with the score at 0-0.

Wolves' left flank had been an area of intrigue. Going forward, the bustling running of Traore on the left wing of attack in a 3-4-3 had caused some threat - but, behind him, Marcal at left wing-back and Romain Saiss at left defence were looking vulnerable. Watford's dangerous Ismaila Sarr and Moussa Sissoko were gaining valuable ground.

On Wolves' other flank, it was a different story, as Nelson Semedo - despite being wasteful in front of goal - was having more joy as their right wing back.

Lage produced the response that was needed at half-time, as Traore and Francisco Trincao swapped wings, providing security, balance and creating the necessary spaces for Wolves to operate.

Suddenly Watford's forays, seen in the first half, became scarce, with the home side finding themselves under mounting pressure.

Watford's headaches were apparent when Traore dashed down the right touchline beyond Emmanuel Dennis, twisted beyond wrong-footed Danny Rose, and floated over a curling cross that was met by a Trincao header from 10 yards, saved by Daniel Bachmann.

Eventually the breakthrough came, albeit gifted, when the delivery of Marcal, recovering from his earlier struggles, was headed in for an own goal by Francisco Sierralta.

That caused Watford to change shape to a 4-4-2, having started with a 4-1-4-1 - and Lage replaced Traore with Daniel Podence - adept at operating further inside.

Podence lofted over a cross that Marcal, roaming forward, met and had a shot blocked, before Hwang Hee-Chan - another lively substitute - followed up and prodded in to secure the 2-0 win.

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