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Arsenal announce Jakub Kiwior transfer

Welcome to North London, Jakub!

Arsenal Unveil New Signing Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Arsenal announced Jakub Kiwior yesterday, a permanent transfer from Spezia Calcio in Serie A. The 22-year old Polish international defender is the Gunners’ second signing of the January transfer window. Arsenal will pay in the neighborhood of £17.5M for Kiwior, and he has signed a long-term deal at the Emirates, presumably 4.5 or 5.5 years, which seems to be the norm for the club.

The Polish defender has 20 appearances for Spezia this season in all competitions. He has nine senior appearances for Poland, including starting all four matches for his country at the World Cup in Qatar. He’s a left-footed centerback but can play left back and spent the majority of his first season in Italy at defensive midfield.

His fbref page reveals strong defensive numbers — 82nd percentile in interceptions, 85th in blocks, and 99th in clearances, but weak on-ball numbers. That’s to be expected from a defender playing for the 15th-place team in the table. His highlight videos show that he’s capable of passing like Mikel Arteta expects of his defenders.

He’ll be the fourth Polish player for Arsenal in the Premier League era. Keepers Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski made 181 and 78 appearances, respectively. Krystian Bielik made two in the cups, none in the Premier League.

Kiwior fills a position of need for the club — backup LCB. Gabriel Magalhaes has played a bunch of consecutive Premier League matches for the Gunners. Being an ironman is impressive but not sustainable, even for the most durable of players. Kiwior should be able to spell Gabriel periodically to keep him fresher and healthier, and we may see the new signing in the Europa League Round of 16 March 9th and 16th.

Even if Kiwior doesn’t start many (or any) matches this season, having him in the fold means less disruption to the defensive setup should Gabriel pick up an injury. It’s a straight replacement rather than having to shift players around to play a fullback out-of-position in the middle. His ability to cover on the left side of the defensive and perhaps for Thomas Partey at the base of the midfield in a pinch is an added bonus.

The Gunners still need to buy long-term cover for Partey, but I think that move will be a big-money transfer in the summer window. It’s nerve-wracking to have half a season’s worth of trying to hold off Manchester City for a Premier League title riding on Thomas Partey’s fitness with the limited Mohamed Elneny and Granit Xhaka, the underperforming Sambi Lokonga, and an untested Jakub Kiwior as the options behind him.

If there is a silver lining to this transfer in light of the current defensive midfield situation, it’s that Arsenal are sticking to their rebuild plan and new ethos. Edu & Mikel Arteta know which positions / roster spots need filling, and they seem to be working on a schedule towards a set end goal. The Kiwior purchase seems part of a coherent, overarching strategy that includes (mostly) buying younger players. Trossard is 28, but you can pretty easily explain that “deviation” purchase as filling an immediate need for a title chase. Buying younger players like Kiwior allows them to grow with the team and their teammates and still have value later in their deals if it isn’t the right fit.

If you couldn’t tell, I like this move for the Gunners. Welcome to North London, Jakub!