Former Premier League star and current pundit Danny Higginbotham has given his opinion regarding the midfield situation at Chelsea, while also advocating for Ruben Loftus-Cheek to play a more significant role in the starting XI.
As the Blues experienced a dip in form in recent weeks, it has coincided with questions regarding the current state of affairs in their midfield setup, particularly the positioning of stalwarts Jorginho and N’Golo Kante.
The main talking point put forward to Maurizio Sarri has been his decision to field N’Golo Kante, whose most natural attributes are that of a defensive midfielder – a position where the Frenchman has played at in recent seasons – further forward in the right of a midfield three. While Jorginho in the pivot position is one of the most important elements in Sarri’s philosophy, a number of media personalities, including television pundit Alan Shearer, have criticised the positioning of Kante in a more forward position especially against high-level opponents.
The defeat against Tottenham Hotspur has been utilised by pundits as the perfect illustration in Sarri’s midfield conundrum, with Jorginho unable to dictate play as Spurs’ frontline pressed him intensely and forced him into the sides. At the same time, this resulted in Harry Kane and Co. pouncing at the extremely exposed Blues centrebacks almost at will with Kante unable to provide cover quickly due to his positioning further upfield.
Despite the uproar in the French midfielder’s positioning, as well as Sarri making the unusual decision to criticise Kante out in the open, many have since expressed support for Kante to flourish in his new position upfield, including club and international teammate Olivier Giroud.
Meanwhile, Higginbotham, a former Premier League star and current pundit for television, has offered an astute analysis of the dynamics in the Chelsea midfield that he perceives to be what Sarri wants to be happening, saying that Kante’s vitality upfront would naturally allow more time and space for Jorginho to operate in a deep-lying playmaker role.
“Why Sarri’s tried to do it [Kante pushed further forward] is they want to use Kante’s energy and press high and by Kante running away from the ball you’re creating time and space for Jorginho,” said the television pundit.
“But what teams have done recently, Tottenham in particular, they’ve dragged Jorginho into wide positions, whether that be Son [Heung-Min] or Dele Alli, and all of a sudden the two centrebacks are open to be got at and that becomes a problem.”
After giving his two cents’ in the Jorginho-Kante conundrum, Higginbotham proceeded to endorse Loftus-Cheek, who is in direct competition with Ross Barkley and Mateo Kovacic in the final midfield spot on the left, to assume a more significant role in attack.
“I don’t see any reason why you can’t play Kante and Jorginho and they have that one running midfielder – Loftus-Cheek maybe give him an opportunity,” added Higginbotham.
“Have Kante sitting, allow Jorginho to be that deep-lying playmaker, have Kante snuffing out the problems that come their way and give Loftus-Cheek the licence to go forward and join in.”