Generally speaking, Chelsea players of a certain age who wind up at Arsenal are not the most popular signings amongst the fanbase. If there is a certain scepticism about those particular cross-London moves, that felt like nonsense as the glowing appreciation of Jorginho lit up the Emirates.
His influence in pulling clever strings all game long during such a critical win against Liverpool was keenly felt. Mikel Arteta was fulsome in praise of a player he values as a “role model”. First into training, last out, and as well prepared to play one minute or 90 that might help the team. “I am lucky to have players like this,” he said.
Jorginho did the rounds after the game, talking patiently and thoughtfully to anyone who valued the experienced take he provides on this Arsenal team. He has a vibe that is at once serene, wise and genial. But if he comes across as happy-go-lucky, underneath that is a serious work ethic and smart analyst who carries his convictions by example.
He has been at Arsenal for a year now and has observed a shift in the mindset lately. “It has been a few games to be honest that I feel like our team is getting more mature,” he says. “Not just with scoring goals but the way we play, understanding the game, when to play short, when to go long, these kind of situations. The team is getting really mature.”
There was certainly maturity in the way they set about Liverpool, imposing their own game, and then, differently, there was maturity in the way they recovered from the setback of a horrible goal to concede in first-half stoppage time. “We went to the changing room and we said what we needed to say and we didn’t drop the energy of the team.”
Jorginho is an important voice in the dressing room and, more recently when he has not been in the team, he has acted as an auxiliary coach on the touchline from his vantage point of a sub warming up. “I just get too excited! I am like, ‘Come on boys!’. I just try to help how I can. If it’s talking from the outside, I will do that just to try and help the boys. But it’s all in a positive way.”
Fortunately for Arsenal, he influenced the team from its midfield heart against Liverpool. There might have been a plan inside the camp for Thomas Partey to be back for this weekend, but Jorginho ensured nothing was missing in the team with so many smart interventions. His ability to either deal with danger or progress Arsenal up the field with a quick pass was outstanding.
His contract is up at the end of the season, but there is an option for another year. Arsenal would be crazy not to take that. “I am trying to enjoy the moment,” he says. “We haven’t spoken about it and I just want to win games with Arsenal.”
Jorginho has started only a third of his Premier League games since joining Arsenal a year ago. Arteta explained that he has been carrying an injury lately, which has hindered his availability. But it has not impacted his attitude.
“He’s been in a lot of pain because he’s had an issue he’s been carrying for months,” Arteta said. “He didn’t want to stop, he’s been playing with that. He’s a really intelligent player, his biggest quality is that he makes the people around him better. He connects everybody.”
What they have experienced collectively since he arrived last January, with the excitement and then soul searching of a title challenge that tailed off, will, Jorginho hopes, make a difference. “The team playing another year together, you learn a lot,” he says. “We can beat any team, that’s the reality. We are on the right path.”
For all that he has won in his glittering career, one trophy eludes him. There has been no title yet. “It would mean a lot,” he says. “That one is missing to tick off. At the end, we will see.”
(Top photo: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)