It was the 92nd minute when Jorginho laced a fizzling shot which cannoned into the crossbar and in off of Martinez’s head to give Arsenal a much-needed goal in their 4-2 victory against Aston Villa.
Jorginho has slotted in seamlessly into the squad, providing an experienced player role to which the youngsters seem to be responding to well. You can often see him barking instructions to others and guiding the team during games.
Mikel Arteta had a lot of praise for him the other day:
“He’s been really good, he’s come into the team and earned the respect of everybody. You see his leadership, his understanding of the game, how he’s coaching everybody. I think he had a really good game.”
“You need players with those experiences who can guide, who can lead and can offer reassurances and show them the path of how it gets done.”
Jorginho’s biggest contribution to the team has been felt through his on-ball ability. Although I agree he can under-hit/overhit long passes (despite most of them being right), his short/medium passing game has been superb. His biggest strength is in controlling the tempo and rhythm of the game, slowing and speeding the game up as he wants to.
Him and Zinchenko share a lot on the ball and some off-the-ball traits and having them two as “controllers” in midfield means a heavy possession day for Arsenal – 63% versus City, 67% versus Villa.
He builds on the ball’s momentum and keeps the game going, very rarely disrupting our flow on the ball. It all comes very naturally to him and it’s refreshing to see him and Zinchenko orchestrating from deep. He’s also a high-volume passer, completing 66 and 80 passes respectively in the two starts against Manchester City and Aston Villa so far.
He progresses plays well and has an eye for a needle pass in the final third, finding Saka and co. a few times in the tightest of spaces in the last few weeks. This is especially useful when it comes to chasing games as we push extremely high up the pitch. He had the most progressive passes in the game against Villa (15), with Odegaard in second on 12.
OFF THE BALL
For all the on-ball positives, having a trio of Zinchenko, Jorginho, and Xhaka is not ideal when it comes to defending counters and oncoming attacks from the opposition. Despite losing some on-ball points, Partey is still an absolutely vital player for this team. His recovery pace, duels, strength, intensity… are all crucial to this team and are all things Jorginho struggles with.
Jorginho is a solid ball interceptor, often catching receivers from their blindside to steal the ball or nick in a challenge. Both Zinchenko and Jorginho have some off-the-ball deficiencies and while fielding them together means more control on the ball, off the ball they can look poor when faced with pace, ESPECIALLY when the team overcommits going forward. While Zinchenko relies on his acceleration to counter press effectively, Jorginho’s pace or lack of it means he has to be even smarter with his positioning. If he loses his footing high up, he’ll struggle to catch up on players.
Jorginho defending open spaces leaves a lot to be desired. There were more than a few instances where the game was running by him and he simply couldn’t cope with oncoming runners due to his physical limitations. This will especially be noticeable when the spacing between our lines is bigger and if our intensity levels aren’t all there (1st half against Villa).
Still, he has surprised many with his recent showings, proving to be better than what people would have hoped for.
Overall, I believe Partey slots back into the eleven as soon as he comes back. That’s not a Jorginho dig or anything like that, but it’s important to remember what he was brought in for. Jorginho looks like a very solid replacement and he could find himself starting even more games considering Partey’s injury record and a congested fixture list soon.
As a short-term fix, Jorginho looks like a good pickup, and getting him in looks to be a smart piece of business considering the overall situation of our midfield and our season currently. Hopefully, he can build on the back of his first three games going forward.