Maurizio Sarri praised Jorginho after Chelsea’s win at Fulham – and suggested that Mateo Kovacic is a viable back-up option in the Italy international’s midfield position.
The much-maligned Jorginho scored in the 2-1 victory at Craven Cottage and was given a rousing ovation by Blues fans when he was substituted in the second half.
He has attracted criticism this season, with many believing head coach Sarri was wrong to move N’Golo Kante from his natural defensive midfield role in order to play Jorginho in front of the back four.
But Sarri has consistently insisted Kante is not the type of player he wants in the role.
And he revealed after the Fulham match that Kovacic rather than Kante has been looked at as a possible alternative.
Sarri has alternated Kovacic and Ross Barkley during games this season but this time brought the Croatian on for Jorginho, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek instead coming on for Barkley – and it could be a sign of things to come.
Jorginho made a big impact before tiring against a Fulham side that put Chelsea under sustained pressure in the second half.
“I am very happy for him because today he scored. But my opinion about Jorginho is the same; Jorginho is a very great player. He is one of the most important players in Europe in that position,” Sarri said.
“Of course for him it is not easy in the first season in a new team. Today he was really tired in the last part of the match and we were lucky that Kovacic entered on the pitch very well.”
And Sarri added: “In that position we have had some problems. We are trying during the training with Kovacic and the answer of Kovacic today was really very good.”
Kepa, meanwhile, was recalled, having been dropped for the Spurs game for refusing to be substituted against City.
The keeper produced a vital late save to deny Aleksandar Mitrovic as Fulham pushed for an equaliser.
Sarri said: “He played very well. But it was a normal decision. He made a very big mistake and now the situation is closed.”