There's been a very odd position taken among some Napoli fans in the last month, one that says new boy Jorginho isn't providing anything to the squad. So the argument goes, because he doesn't do many flashy things on the pitch like cannoning long range shots, eye-melting through balls, or explosive tackles, he's not doing anything useful.
Besides being an annoyingly English point of view (I love English football, but there's more to the sport than "blood and thunder"), it's just plain wrong. He has made the side so much better since he first stepped on to the pitch, with his quality of play far outstripping even the most optimistic projections for his early days in Naples. Not only is he playing very, very well for himself, he's making his teammates better as well.
Jorginho For Jorginho
In terms of his individual play, Jorginho has been immense. While he only has one goal to his name in his six matches and one assist, that doesn't change the fact that his play has been remarkable. He's been supremely confident in possession, finding regular gaps in defensive coverage when he can and staying safe with the ball when he can't.
What Jorginho has really excelled at since joining Napoli is the "secondary" assist. What this means is that he delivers a pass that sets one of his teammates free, and that teammate makes the final pass that sets up a goal, or makes one last linking pass that leads to the assist. While secondary assists are unfortunately not tracked, he's had probably five or six since joining the side, which is no easy feat to have that many that fast, and several have come on shockingly good passes. The AC Milan match in particular stands out for this skill, as he had a significant hand in all three Napoli goals.
He's also done tremendously well in defense, pressing like a maniac when Napoli don't have the ball. What Jorginho has also shown a knack for is sniffing out runs through his midfield zone before they become dangerous. Once he identifies a runner, he puts himself on their hip and doesn't give them space to move in. Between that and his on-ball pressing, Jorginho pretty much single-handedly kept Miralem Pjanic out of the match in the home leg of the Coppa Italia semi-final against Roma.
An Aid To All
What's perhaps helped Napoli even more than his direct contributions, though, is all the little things Jorginho does to make the squad around him better. He's become probably the team's best off-ball player, and if he's not on the top of that list he's very close to it. No matter if Napoli has the ball or not, he's constantly motoring around the pitch doing all the little unsung things that go unnoticed but make an impact on how the match is going.
Jorginho is constantly buzzing around the pitch, making himself available as an easy outlet for possession should whoever has the ball. This shows up when Napoli don't have the ball as well, as when he's not pressing or harrying a runner, Jorginho sets up just over the back line to receive a shorter pass instead of forcing them to make a lower-percentage long pass up the pitch. He also makes regular supporting runs for the attack, which is a big part of how he wound up with his first goal for the club against Roma last week.
There's two stellar examples of how Jorginho's off-ball action has helped improve the team. First and foremost has been the return to form for Gokhan Inler. The Swiss midfielder has spent all season trying to cover for Valon Behrami and Blerim Dzemaili, both of whom are in much weaker form than they were last season. This has led to him taking on too much responsibility and faltering. Jorginho's efforts have freed him up to "let Inler be Inler", as it were, and his play has gotten dramatically better in recent weeks as a result.
The away leg of the Coppa semi-final was also a good demonstration of what Jorginho brings the side. In the first half while the side was floundering, Jorginho started pressing too hard to make up for it, trying to pull the side along himself. In the second half, Jorginho stayed more within himself and got back to the things he usually does to support the side, and the team performance as a whole got dramatically better as a result.
While Jorginho is rarely going to shock and amaze you with what he does on the pitch, he's "that" player that every great team has: the one who goes largely unnoticed, but is the one who makes the whole team tick. Other players get the glory, but guys like Jorginho are the ones who let them do their thing. Napoli are a much better-balanced side with him in the squad, and he's going to help the club do great things while he's here.
The best part? Napoli got Jorginho dirt-cheap compared to the value he's going to give the club, and he's just 22 years old. He has a long career ahead of him, and he's going to get a lot better than he is now. We've only just scratched the surface on what Jorginho can do. He's going to be fun to watch grow. Even more fun than he is to watch now.