Jorginho has been backed to overcome his detractors at Chelsea by Blues boss Maurizio Sarri.
The Italy playmaker followed Sarri from Napoli to Stamford Bridge last summer in a £57million move. He is a key component of the possession-based ‘Sarri-ball’ philosophy which has been turgid at times this season.
Jorginho was booed by Chelsea fans when going on as a substitute in the recent win over Malmo and missed a penalty in the Carabao Cup final shootout loss to Manchester City.
But Sarri expects the 27-year-old to improve as the team learn “our way of football”.
“Jorginho has a very strong character, a very strong personality,” the 60-year-old Blues head coach said.
Maurizio Sarri believes what happened at Wembley last Sunday has had a galvanising effect on him, his staff and the players... 👇— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) 2 March 2019
“So I can believe that he has no problem to play under pressure. I think that he played very well in the last match (against Tottenham), better in the second half than in the first half.
“For him, it’s very important to finish the match in that way.
“I think that he can do better. But he needs all the team to understand very well our way of football.”
It is Sarri who has been under examination of late, with heavy defeats at Bournemouth and Manchester City and the negative reaction of fans to the FA Cup exit to Manchester United rendering his position precarious.
That was before the Kepa Arrizabalaga substitution furore when the world’s most expensive goalkeeper refused to go off at Wembley with penalties looming.
City won the shootout 4-3 and debate raged at whether Sarri’s position had been undermined.
The situation appears to have galvanised Chelsea, while it was Sunday’s opponents who made a managerial change.
Claudio Ranieri was sacked and former Blues midfielder Scott Parker will take charge of the home side at Craven Cottage.
Sarri says the only pressure which bothers him is internal and he had the same drive when he was working as a banker while managing amateur football teams in Italy.
“My pressure was the same,” Sarri added.
“The pressure is inside. I felt big pressure in Serie C, and very little sometimes in the Champions League. It’s really very important your feeling at the moment.”
Sarri repeated his oft-uttered view that the pressure was greater at Napoli, where the supporters are renowned for their passion than in his present position at Chelsea.
“Napoli is not a small club. And the pressure is a lot higher there than here,” he said.
Sarri hopes the Blues’ midweek defeat of Tottenham can see Spurs slip back to make it a four-way battle for two Champions League qualifying spots, with Arsenal and Manchester United also in contention.
Chelsea are trailing the trio, albeit with a game in hand, and Sarri knows the Blues cannot afford to take any opponent lightly.
He added: “Every match is very difficult and mentally very expensive. You risk arriving at this moment of the season really very tired, more mentally than physically. In England, the season is really very difficult.
“The target of my club is to return in the Champions League. I would be really very happy.”
One of the Premier League’s fiercest derbies returns on Sunday as Everton host Liverpool with the chance to spoil their fierce rivals’ chase for a first league title in 29 years.
Both sides come into this game high on confidence after midweek wins that featured excellent performances from their No10s, Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson and Liverpool’s Sadio Mane.
The duel between the two attacking stars headlines our key player battles for the Merseyside derby.
Gylfi Sigurdsson vs Sadio Mane
Sigurdsson goes into this game on a high, having scored twice in Everton’s midweek win over Cardiff City.
It hasn’t quite worked out for the brilliant Iceland midfielder at Goodison Park, though he’s had his moments – that particular performance being one of them. On his day he’s capable of brilliance, with the ability to beat any defence with a clever pass, mazy run, or smart finish. But it’s as much manager Marco Silva’s inability to gel all his summer signings that is a reason for Sigurdsson’s struggles as opposed to a lack of form from the former Tottenham and Swansea schemer.
And Liverpool are well aware of the threat he poses, as Sigurdsson has four goals against the Reds in his career. Everton’s attack hasn’t always clicked this season but if their No10 is in the mood, that won’t be a problem.
Of course, if Liverpool’s No10 is in the mood, Sigurdsson’s form may not matter. Mane has been one of the best players in the league this season, and like his opposite number, he scored twice in midweek – including one utterly sumptuous goal – during a 5-1 win over Watford.
Though Mohamed Salah gets most of the attention, Mane is equally capable of having a game-changing impact. The Senegal forward’s direct running and skill on the ball, combined with his penchant for spectacular goals, will have Everton defenders on their toes whenever he’s in possession.
Idrissa Gueye vs Fabinho
Everton have been inconsistent this season, but that can’t be said of midfielder Idrissa Gueye, who’s been a lynchpin at the base of midfield for the Toffees.
His 4.3 tackles per game are the highest of any player in the league, a sign of how vital a player he is for Silva’s side. The Senegalese’s ability to snuff out danger will be vital against the Liverpool counter, which will provide a big test of his abilities.
Everton’s hopes of getting something out of this game are dependent on Gueye performing at his best. And if he helps deny Liverpool the title, he’ll be even more loved by the Everton fans than he already is.
It’s hard to remember now, but early this season Fabinho couldn’t get a game for Liverpool, as Jurgen Klopp kept delaying the Brazilian’s introduction to the Premier League until he was sure his summer recruit was ready for it.
That decision has paid off, as the former Monaco man has blossomed into his side’s best midfielder. It helps that he can also play as a full-back and centre-back, but the performances he’s put in, in the centre of the park, have vaulted him into the main contender for the unofficial signing of the season award. In the heat of the Merseyside derby, Fabinho’s cool head will be key.
Michael Keane vs Virgil van Dijk
Michael Keane has at times looked shaky since moving to Goodison Park but, recently, he’s begun to look more like the uncompromising, classy defender who made a name for himself at Burnley.
This game will prove a true test of the England man’s credentials, however, as he has to deal with one of European football’s most feared attacks. How he fares against Salah, Mane, and Roberto Firmino, a front three capable of running riot at times, will go a long way to determining whether Everton can finally experience some derby joy. He did have a good game against Liverpool earlier this season; his side will want more of the same on Sunday.
There may still be questions over Keane’s ability but, at the moment, the only question hanging over Virgil van Dijk’s head is where exactly he ranks on the list of the world’s best defenders.
The proof is in the pudding: Liverpool have more clean sheets than goals conceded in the Premier League this season, as Van Dijk has superbly marshaled a resolute defence.
Not since 2004/05 has a defender – Chelsea’s John Terry – won the PFA Player of the Year award, but the Dutchman will be the favourite if Liverpool win the league title this season.
And for that to happen, he’ll have to be at his commanding, brilliant best in this potential banana-skin of a derby.
A fiercely contested north London derby ended in a stalemate on Saturday as Harry Kane’s second-half penalty cancelled out Aaron Ramsey’s 16th-minute opener.
It’s a first Premier League draw of the season for Tottenham, but having lost their last two games and gone behind at home in this one, the point will be a welcome one. For Arsenal, this was a blown opportunity, as a win would have brought them to within a point of their rivals.
Here’s a look at how the teams fared.
Mkhitaryan’s good form continues
Henrikh Mkhitaryan had two goals and three assists in his last two games, and the confidence he’s gained from that run of form was on show again on Saturday.
It was his pass that led to Arsenal’s penalty, the second time he’d nearly contributed to a Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang goal, with the striker’s poor first touch wasting a superb pass from Mkhitaryan earlier in the game.
But perhaps the most telling moment came in defence. Arsenal had a set-piece that came to nothing, and as Spurs broke it was the Armenian who covered almost the entire length of the pitch to put in a vital clearance in his own box.
Somewhere, Jose Mourinho must be fuming.
Trippier puts mistake behind him
After Wednesday’s horror show against Chelsea, in which he slotted past his own goalkeeper, Kieran Trippier will have wanted to banish memories of that moment with a good performance here.
Though he wasted a couple of opportunities in attack, producing poor crosses in situations where he usually does better, he was assured defensively. There was one moment where he headed back to Hugo Lloris and the Tottenham fans no doubt held their breaths for a second, but it was perfectly done.
In general, the Englishman was solid defensively, winning six of his nine tackles and producing an error-free performance.
Special mention to Mkhitaryan for his performance today. Couldn't ask for more. He's picking up right from where he left off. The intensity in his runs and work rate throughout was exactly what Emery would have wanted. Done himself proud today.— LTArsenal™️ (@ltarsenal) March 2, 2019
Emery’s second-half substitutions
In this season’s first north London derby, Unai Emery’s substitutions at half-time and in the second half changed the game, turning a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 win.
This time, protecting a lead, Emery brought on Lucas Torreira for Matteo Guendozi at half-time and Aubameyang and Mesut Ozil for Alexandre Lacazette and Aaron Ramsey later.
But Aubameyang wasted one scoring chance, then missed a penalty. Torreira’s red card for a daft challenge at the end undid his good work. Ozil, meanwhile, barely got into the game.
Son Heung-min goes missing
Given the season he’s had, Son Heung-min can be forgiven one poor performance or two, but in a game like this, Tottenham would have expected one of their best players to step up.
Instead, he was a peripheral figure. Well-marshaled by Arsenal’s usually flimsy defence, the Korean managed just one shot and one dribble. He linked up well with Christian Eriksen and Kane, but it wasn’t a surprise when Mauricio Pochettino chose him as the man to come off for Fernando Llorente.
Only two goalkeepers have stopped a penalty from Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the Premier League:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 2, 2019
👐 Hugo Lloris
An elite club. https://t.co/YllGTsdYuh
3rd min – MISS: Lacazette finds himself unmarked in front of goal after Alex Iwobi’s deflected cross falls to him, but his volley is wide.
16th min – GOAL: Poor defending from Davinson Sanchez allows Lacazette to slip the ball to the streaking Ramsey, who keeps his cool when through on goal to slot him the opener.
22nd min – DISALLOWED GOAL: Kane buries a header from Eriksen’s free-kick, but the goal is rightly chalked off as the striker was marginally offside.
44th min – SAVE: A stunning double save from Bernd Leno. Eriksen should have scored, firing straight at the Arsenal keeper after being found by a brilliant ball from Kane. But the save on the follow-up from Moussa Sissoko is even better.
53rd min – CHANCE: Lacazette fluffs his lines again, firing wide of the target from Nacho Monreal’s cut-back when completely unmarked in the box.
74th min – GOAL: Kane was fouled on a free-kick – though a penalty shouldn’t have been awarded, as he was offside in any case. No matter. The Tottenham talisman scored his ninth goal from nine North London derbies to bring Spurs level.
90 + 1st min – PENALTY MISS: Having won a dubious penalty, Aubameyang stepped up with a chance to win the derby. Instead, his tame spot-kick allows Lloris to make the save, and a brilliant tackle denies him a tap-in on the rebound.
90 + 4th min – RED CARD: Torreira goes in hard, high, and late on Danny Rose. The only thing okay with this tackle is that it wasn’t entirely two-footed. Rash and a deserved red card that means the midfielder will miss next week’s clash against Manchester United.
Tottenham – B+: They missed a couple of good chances, were wrongly awarded a penalty, and saw a late Arsenal penalty – perhaps also wrongly awarded – saved. But this was an improvement from their two losses over the past week.
Arsenal – B-: They’ll look back at the two missed chances by Lacazette, and of course Aubameyang’s missed penalty, in a game they probably should have won. But that penalty miss and Torreira’s late moment of madness marred their performance.