Having had such a great season, breaking most records that exist in the Premier League era, Manchester City find themselves in an interesting position going into the summer window. On the one hand they don’t want to change too much because what they did last season worked incredibly well, but then they also don’t want to remain still and allow competitors to gain ground on them.
Having been heavily linked with Jorginho and Riyad Mahrez, it seems they’re doing anything but stand still, instead looking to improve their squad in the hopes of winning all four trophies next season.
This piece will focus on the former of the two linked names, looking at what the midfielder can bring to Manchester City and who Napoli could be targeting to replace him.
What can Jorghino bring to Manchester City?
With Fernandinho 33-years-old and Yaya Toure leaving at the end of his contract, a new midfield signing seems more a matter of when than if for Manchester City this summer. The man they’ve been heavily linked with is Napoli’s Jorginho, which should come as no surprise.
Jorginho is an elite passer of the ball and a key part of Sarri’s Napoli. In ‘Vertical Passing 2.0‘, ‘Vertical Passing 2.1‘ and ‘Trying to Find Midfielders‘ Jorginho dominates almost every passing metric. He attempted the most passes of all midfielders in Europe’s top five leagues last season, which makes it unsurprising he also attempted the most vertical passes and, consequently, the most vertical passes into the final third p90.
While vertical passing is more of a stylistic feature as opposed to performance related, it’s a feature that is shared with Manchester City. Manchester City played the most vertical passes per game last season with Napoli playing the second most.
Jorginho has a great passing range, taking part in Napoli’s combinations in build-up, while also knowing when to look for a longer, or more progressive pass. When players have huge attempted pass numbers it’s easy to be skeptical and assume they pass the ball with no real purpose, just moving it side to side. This isn’t the case with Jorginho, the vertical pass numbers hint towards this while @MC_of_A’s ‘Progressive Pass’ numbers also show this – as can be seen in the tweet below.
Progressive passing and runs leaders in the big five leagues. pic.twitter.com/v5VbTNJrlS
— Michael Caley (@MC_of_A) May 23, 2018
His standing is impressive given his dribbling is almost non-existent.
Jorginho’s strengths seem to perfectly suit a Pep Guardiola team, while you’d imagine under the guidance of Guardiola his pass selection and positioning should be enhanced even further.
Now this is far from my strong point, but I’ve included some clips of Jorginho, showing what he can bring to City and how his style should be well suited to #6 in a Guardiola side.
In the below clip he offers pretty much exactly what you’d want from your teams defensive midfielder. The clip is from a game where they’re 2-0 up within 20 minutes against a poor Benevento side, but his actions are still impressive.
He sends a long pass wide to spread the play, when the ball is turned over and Kalidou Koulibaly comes out the defensive line to press the attacker he covers the vacated space, before eventually reclaiming the ball and helping Napoli move further up the field. Finally he combines on the left hand side, picking out Marek Hamsik in the half space and with room to turn and put pressure on the Benevento back line.
Another general playmaking clip can also be seen against Roma below. Here he combines well against the Roma press, before playing the long-ball and having the team move up into the opposition half, where he sits in the left half space and combines well with Allan before moving the ball out wide. Finally, he also commits a good foul when he presses Naingollan and stops the Roma counter attack.
Then, in Martí Perarnau’s book ‘Pep Confidential’, in which he followed Pep around during his first season at Bayern Munich, Pep told his players that he hates tiki-taka as it means passing the ball with no purpose. He says the secret of team sports is to overload the one side of the pitch to draw the opposition in and leave the other side weak, so they can then attack on the weak side.
This is something that Jorginho is already familar with, with Napoli overloading on the left hand side, drawing the opposition in, before changing the pace and advancing up the pitch. There’ll likely only be a few tweaks needed for his game to adapt to City’s. It seems with a bit of time and Pep’s tutelage Jorginho could operate similarly to how Sergio Busquets did in Guardiola’s Barcelona side.
So, this is all well and good, City are getting a peak age player that improves them and fits their system well, but what about Napoli?
How Can Napoli Replace Jorginho?
What’s Jorginho’s Role At Napoli?
Building on the above, Jorginho has an interesting role at Napoli. While lining up as a #6, giving Napoli’s dominance and left side bias, his most common pass types and location of received passes look more like that of an #8.
Now, before going further the way I’ve got the received location for each pass involves a lot of assumptions.
I sorted the passes by match and time, then should the previous pass be completed the received location of the current pass is the end location of the previous pass. I initially tried doing this with a loop, but realised that wasn’t efficient, so decided to be lazy and shift the end location column down a row and say if the previous pass was completed, the team and match the same then we can assume the received location is the end location. I’ve gone through and tested some values and it seems to be right, but I want to give warning that some values could slip through the net.
Jorginho’s most common pass types can be seen below.
You can see most come in that left half space, wheres Fernandinho’s pass map, who seems to operate as more of a typical #6, can be seen below.
This makes finding a Jorginho replacement interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly, despite Sarri not leaving yet, Napoli have announced that Carlo Ancelotti will be manager next season so the demands for what they’re looking for will likely be different than if Sarri was to stay. Secondly, should they be looking for a player like Jorginho, with similar pass/receive locations, or just any talented #6?
I’ll try to keep these things in mind when looking for a replacement. So, who are some options to replace Jorginho?
Amadou Diawara – 20 – Napoli
Selling a key player for a big fee and not going out to sign a replacement may be a risky move, but Napoli have an extremely talented player on their hands with Amadou Diawara. Spending ~£13m on the then 19-year-old back in 2016 after a season of regular football with Bologna shows that Napoli have a high opinion of the youngster, but is he ready to step up to replace Jorginho now?
Diawara played only 1186 minutes in all competitions this season, with just 5 starts in Serie A. This is important to keep in mind when comparing his numbers to Jorginho and the other midfielders throughout this piece.
Given that when he plays he plays in the ‘Jorginho role’ it’s unsurprising they share some similar numbers, with Diawara’s 97.3 attempted passes p90 closely rivaling Jorginho’s 102.5 p90. They both attempt around the same number of long-balls a game each, however Diawara doesn’t fare so well when looking at the more ‘progressive’ passing numbers. Jorginho’s 4.27 attempted passes into the box (APIB) p90 dwarfs Diawara’s 1.40 p90, while the same happens with vertical pass numbers. Diawara attempts 5.05 p90, less than half of Jorginho’s 11.72 p90.
He does have the ability to pull off more progressive passes, with some evidenced in the video below, so it’s interesting that there’s such a big difference in the numbers given they play the same role in the same team.
With that being said, there does seem to be some differences in how they play the role. This can firstly be seen in the location of where they receive their passes, with Diawara’s being seen below.
The left half space bias is there, but not as strongly as with Jorginho, with the right half space also getting some attention too. This can also be seen in a few clips of his general play from the Genoa game. He seems to operate more like a typical #6, happy to split the centre-backs and sit in the defensive line, while sweeping up in front of the defence to stop counter attacks.
Lucas Torreira – 22 – Sampdoria
With some impressive numbers last season, Uruguayan midfielder Lucas Torreira looked a steal for his ~£12m release clause. In the end no club gambled, which may not be too surprising as it was his first year in the top flight, so he renewed his contract at Sampdoria and the upped the clause to ~£22m. After another impressive season, however, this still looks like a steal.
I previously wrote about Torreira as a possible target for Liverpool, so won’t talk about him too much here. Also, @MoeSquare wrote a great piece on Torreira on his Medium which is much better and more in depth than what I could write on him.
Unsurprisingly his 56.0 attempted passes p90 falls behind Jorginho’s, with Sampdoria not dominating possession as much as Napoli this season, but looking at what he does when he has the ball, as opposed to how often, creates some interesting comparisons. His 5.54 attempted vertical passes p90 make up 9.9% of his attempted passes, which isn’t far behind Jorginho’s 11.4% and significantly more than Diawara’s 5.2%.
Then his 1.40 APIB p90 is around the same as Diawara’s, but is impressive given it comes in half the number of passes. It’s still behind Jorginho, who had 4.2% of his attempted passes going into the box, while Torreira had 2.5%, but it’s a difference you can imagine can be made up in a more dominating team and probably more players making dangerous runs into the box.
As expected for a team that has less of the ball, Torreira also puts up more attempted tackles and interceptions p90 than Jorginho too with 6.94, marginally beating the Italian’s 6.27 p90.
Sampdoria also had a lower PPDA than Napoli last season, so if Ancelotti opts to keep the high pressing Torreira should be fine.
Torreira does operate more like a typical #6 than Jorginho when looking at the location of his received passes and most common pass types, but this shouldn’t come as a detriment, given they’re probably more likely to find a typical #6 rather than another Jorginho, but also the players should be able to adapt to minor changes in the role.
Torreira’s most common pass types and received pass locations can be seen below.
Lucas Torreira looks to be one of the most promising defensive midfield players in the world, he’s only just turned 22-years-old yet already has two impressive Serie A seasons under his belt. It’d be good business by Napoli if they were to sell Jorginho for £50m+ and then go and pay Torreira’s clause, while it could also be a good move by Torreira to climb the Serie A ladder and move to a top Italian side.
Torreira also represents a good option for Manchester City, whether or not they sign Jorginho. Torreira was the 2nd closest for most common pass types and received pass location to Fernandinho this season. At 22-years of age Torreira could rotate with Fernandinho for the remainder of his 2-year contract before taking over the role when he’s 24-years-old and entering his peak years. Alternatively, City could sign both and send Torreira back on loan to Serie A, possibly to Napoli, for two years then have a 29-year-old Jorginho and 24-year-old Torreira as their two midfield options at the end of Fernandinho’s current deal.
Overall, my feelings on Torreira remain the same as they did at the end of the last season – he’s a hugely promising player, already performing at a high level and someone should definitely be triggering his release clause over the summer.
William Carvalho – 26 – Sporting
I can’t claim to have seen huge amounts of William Carvalho, due to not watching much Portuguese football in general, but he could represent a good option for Napoli in defensive midfield. It’s been reported he’s allowed to leave and with everything that seems to be happening off the pitch at Sporting (which @TiagoEstv has wrote about on StatsBomb), there’s a chance Napoli may be able to get him for less than the £4om that was reported to be his asking price last season.
Unfortunately I don’t have detailed data up to date for the Primeira Liga, I have only have it up to date as of February. This is still relevant, but not ideal.
Like most midfielders, Carvalho didn’t attempt anywhere near the number of passes as Jorginho last season, despite attempting a healthy 60.2 passes p90. Carvalho does rival Jorginho when it comes to looking how he used the ball with these passes though. Carvalho attempted 5.9 vertical passes p90, making up 9.8% of his total, while also managing 2.30 APIB p90, accounting for 3.8% of his total, which isn’t far at all from Jorginho.
Carvalho seems as though he’d operate more like a typical #6, happy sitting between the two centre-backs and pinging passes to the flanks to start attacks, but I’d imagine given he has an impressive passing range it should only require a few tweaks before being what Napoli are looking for. A few clips of Carvalho’s passing from this season can be seen below.
Carvalho seems like he could be a good option for Napoli, some of his pass numbers rival Jorginho’s, while also having impressive defensive numbers, he’s available and also comes at a good age, young enough to get a sizable portion of his peak years, but old enough to not impede Diawara’s development. Napoli could have Carvalho for the next 3-4 seasons while getting Diawara ready to take over after that.
Stanislav Lobotka – 23 – Celta
Stanislav Lobotka has enjoyed a great first season in La Liga with Celta, making the ~£4.5m fee look like a bargain. He signed a new contract in February and upped his release clause to €50m, but this shouldn’t deter Napoli from looking into him.
@ThatGooner wrote a great piece on Lobotka here, which I’d highly recommend, while Lobotka popped up in both ‘Vertical Passing 2.1‘ and ‘Trying To Find Midfielders‘ so I’ll just give a brief run down of his numbers here.
Lobotka seems like a different type of player than Jorginho, or at least is on a team with a different style, as his numbers for vertical passing and APIB are some way behind Jorginho’s. He attempts 4.2 vertical passes p90, accounting for 7.7% of his total passes, while attempting just 0.60 passes into the box p90. However, in ‘Vertical Passing 2.1‘ it was found that while he doesn’t attempt a huge number of vertical passes, he was very accurate with them, suggesting he could adapt his game to play these more often and perform well when doing so.
He also offers more than Jorginho when it comes to dribbling and resisting pressure. While he doesn’t attempt a huge volume of take-ons, attempting 1.33 p90, he’s successful 92.5% of the time. In comparison, Jorginho attempts 0.63 p90 and is successful 68.3% of the time.
His most common pass types and received pass locations can be seen below. He seems to use the ball in slightly deeper areas than the names mentioned so far, but does have a high proportion of passes moving forward through the middle which is encouraging.
Lobotka looks a really impressive player and has even been linked with Napoli recently. He seems as though he’d be a different type of player than Jorginho, but this shouldn’t be treated as a negative. He’s talented, can progress the ball and evade pressure well. The release clause is steep, particularly when compared with Torreira’s, but he’s still worth looking into.
Fabian Ruiz – 22 – Betis
Another young midfielder doing well in La Liga is Fabian Ruiz. Betis had a great season finishing in 6th place and Fabian played an important part in that, starting 30 La Liga games.
@ThatGooner wrote a piece about Betis with a section about Fabian, that I’d recommend reading. He also came up in ‘Vertical Passing 2.1‘ and has a small section in ‘Trying To Find Midfielders‘ so I won’t talk about him too much here.
One thing that @ThatGooner praised was Fabian’s versatility, which becomes apparent when seeing the locations of his received passes, as most tend to come on the right hand side as opposed to that of a typical central midfielder.
Looking at the numbers, Fabian doesn’t have as many vertical passes as Jorginho, but like Lobotka he popped up in ‘Vertical Passing 2.1‘ as a player who doesn’t attempt many but is very accurate in those that he attempts. Just 5.6% of his passes were vertical last season, although 2.3% of his attempted passes were into the box which is respectable, particularly when coupled with a 66.7% success rate, compared to Jorginho’s 35.8% – although this doesn’t take into account the difficulty of the passes.
Fabian Ruiz also offers more dribbling than the names mentioned so far, attempting 2.88 take-ons per match with a 78.1% success rate and put forward a similar number of attempted tackles and interceptions as Jorginho with 6.22 p90.
Fabian signed a new deal this season and upped his release clause to €30m, ~£26.4m, which isn’t bad value for a talented player who’s only just turned 22-years-old. Napoli have been linked with him recently and it’s not hard to see why, he’s definitely a name that should be high up on their shortlist.
- Ruben Neves – 21 – Wolves: Hugely talented midfielder with a great passing range, could definitely fit the Jorginho mould. Given Wolves have no reason to sell he’d probably be pretty expensive, plus as a Wolves fan I’d rather not see him leave anytime soon.
- Leandro Paredes – 23 – Zenit: Talked about his move to Zenit in ‘5 Transfers You May Have Missed‘, had great passing numbers at Roma and seems capable of playing the Jorginho role at Napoli.
- Mateo Kovacic – 24 – Real Madrid: Just turned 24-years-old, good dribbler but falls slightly behind in vertical pass numbers, seems happy waiting for first-team football at Real Madrid despite constantly being linked with a move away.
If the deal goes through Napoli’s loss looks set to be Manchester City’s gain, but the good news for Napoli is that there’s lots of talented midfielders available at good prices, while they still have Amadou Diawara in reserve as well.
The names mentioned could even be alternatives for Manchester City should the deal for Jorginho not go through, with the clubs seemingly being some way apart in their valuation of the Italian.
From the above names, it seems hard to look past Lucas Torreira for either club with his release clause offering great value.
For Napoli William Carvalho seems an interesting, peak age option who can spend a few years at the club before Diawara is deemed ready to make the position his own, while given all that’s happening at Sporting he may also be available at a good fee.
Ruiz and Lobotka are two more talented players who seem a slightly different mould, but would also be good signings for Napoli, although (and this counts for Torreira too) could be deemed on the young side given they already have Amadou Diawara.
Napoli have already been linked with Torreira, Lobotka and Fabian Ruiz this summer, so it seems if Jorginho is to leave they’ll reinvest the money well. It also seems if Manchester City want a peak age option for their defensive midfield position Jorginho is the best option, though given the similarity in passing with Fernandinho and value for money Lucas Torreira could also be a great option for them.