LONDON (AP) - Chelsea has a new manager but the curious case of Jorginho and the team’s midfield metamorphosis might still come to define Frank Lampard’s first season in charge.
Italy midfielder Jorginho was Maurizio Sarri’s man, hailed as the chief exponent of the “Sarriball” possession play on his 57-million-pound ($69-million) arrival from Napoli in the summer of 2018.
Sarri’s man in the middle attracted all the criticism from fans any time Chelsea labored under the former Napoli boss’ heavily proscriptive system.
The 27-year-old was rarely able to cut loose and step out of his deep-lying role, and Sarri constantly railed against claims he was wasting N’Golo Kante by deploying France’s wrecking-ball World Cup-winner further upfield.
Lampard appears determined not to follow suit.
“I have more space to create and I’m more free, so I can do many things with my creativity,” said Jorginho, of a fresh task under new Blues boss Lampard.
An expected 4-2-3-1 approach might give Chelsea more stability, especially if Kante is restored to his ball-winning best at the midfield’s base.
Sarri never settled at Stamford Bridge and - despite pulling off a third-place Premier League finish and landing the Europa League title - the chain-smoking former banker secured a quick return to Italy with Juventus.
Jorginho is determined to settle down in west London, however, insisting he has been energized by Lampard’s arrival.
Chelsea’s record goal-scorer, Lampard is back at the Bridge as top boss and that after just one year in management with Derby County.
Too good a chance to turn down, now the 41-year-old Lampard must fight to ensure his tenure is not too much too soon.
The scale of loss in Eden Hazard’s move to Real Madrid is still to be seen. The Belgium forward had a direct hand in 38 goals last term, scoring 21 and laying on 17 more. His 15 Premier League assists proved the high mark across Europe’s top five divisions.
Chelsea’s two-window transfer ban has left the Blues unable to seek a top-level replacement for Hazard, and Lampard is busily promoting from within.
Christian Pulisic is a new arrival at least, the United States forward signed in January but was allowed to see out the season at Borussia Dortmund.
The 20-year-old will head a clutch of youngsters expected to fill the Hazard void and drive Chelsea’s new era, with academy graduate Callum Hudson-Odoi also firmly in that category.
Midfielder Mason Mount thrived on loan at Derby under Lampard last term, while striker Tammy Abraham helped Aston Villa win Premier League promotion.
Assistant Jody Morris and boss Lampard are still rookies in the management game too, but the former Chelsea stars understand the club’s fabric and value their youth talent.
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