Talking Tactics

How Jorginho has benefited from defensive change

By Adrian Clarke 10 May 2023

Adrian Clarke on why the Arsenal midfielder has thrived since Jakub Kiwior's inclusion in the side

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Player analysis - Jorginho (ARS)

Mikel Arteta added Jorginho to his squad in January to provide calm leadership, strong defensive acumen, technical excellence and a winning mentality.  

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Across the last two matches those attributes came to the fore in eye-catching performances for Arsenal against Chelsea and Newcastle United.  

Replacing out-of-form Thomas Partey, the 31-year-old excelled in each match, with his composure providing a calming influence on the rest of the side.  

In their must-win encounter at home to Brighton & Hove Albion, Jorginho will once again need to bring his A-game, especially up against the vibrant pairing of the highly-rated Moises Caicedo and Alexis Mac Allister.  

Defensive nous

Jorginho has never been a quick, athletic player. Instead, he relies on his renowned game intelligence to provide solidity out of possession.  

During the last 180 minutes of football the Italy international’s reading of the game was exceptional.  

Choosing the right moments to press and knowing when to drop in and make up a back five as an auxiliary central defender, his judgement was top class.  

In both matches Jorginho regained possession more often than anyone else in the Gunners side.  

Jorginho's defensive contributions
Jorginho defensive chalkboard v Chelsea
Jorginho's defensive actions v Chelsea
Jorginho defensive chalkboard v Newcastle
Jorginho's defensive actions v Newcastle

The vastly experienced midfielder has benefitted from the inclusion of central defender Jakub Kiwior in the last two matches.  

Kiwior's pace and front-foot style of defending has pushed Arsenal’s back four higher, and compressed space in central midfield.  

This has allowed Jorginho to operate in smaller areas where his lack of speed is not such a cause for concern.  

Mobility-wise he offers plenty to the side.  

Jorginho ran 10.99km at Newcastle, a team-high, and he ranked third at home to Chelsea when covering 10.75km. 

Arsenal running stats, MW34-35
v Chelsea Distance (km) v Newcastle Distance (km)
Odegaard 11.58 Jorginho 10.99
Xhaka 11.54 Xhaka 10.69
Jorginho 10.75 Saka 9.81

Jorginho also used his experience wisely in those victories against Chelsea and Newcastle.  

Keeping his distribution simple, Jorginho looked after the ball sensibly in order to limit turnovers and transitions.  

At the right times he also held on to the ball, before drawing fouls from the opposition.  

The Italian won four free-kicks at St James’ Park, adding to the three he earned against Chelsea at Emirates Stadium.  

A stern midfield test 

Brighton’s midfield has been particularly impressive under Roberto De Zerbi, so Sunday afternoon’s encounter will provide another stiff examination for Jorginho.  

The Seagulls like to keep the ball and pass it through the thirds, and out of possession they work feverishly to regain it.  

Inside the middle third they are especially effective at winning the ball.

Most possession won in middle third 22/23
Club Possession won/90
Leeds 26.90
Liverpool 26.60
Brighton 26.10
Man City 25.30
Southampton 24.80

It will be a surprise to many to see Jorginho favoured ahead of Partey at the business end of the season, but the Italian’s form is excellent.  

Arsenal have looked calmer and more assured with the 31-year-old as their deep-lying lynchpin, but he must produce another strong performance on Sunday if they are to keep their title hopes alive.

Also in this series

Part 1: Harrison and Rodrigo can put Leeds on the front foot
Part 3: Fabinho finding form at right time to stop Maddison
Part 4: Calvert-Lewin has strength to trouble leaders

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