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Jorginho is a fine signing for Arsenal

Bottom line: it’s not the sexiest move, but it’s a smart one.

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Liverpool FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League Photo by Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Arsenal have bought Jorginho from Chelsea for £10M + £2M in potential add-ons, per multiple reports. It’s a done deal — he’s had his Arsenal medical and signed his contract in North London. The veteran Italian midfielder joins the Gunners on an 18-month contract with a club option for an additional year.

It’s a perfectly fine transfer deal. It fills an area of desperate need (defensive midfield cover) and doesn’t saddle the club with an aging veteran on a long contract. At the very least, in light of Mohamed Elneny’s significant knee injury, signing Jorginho ensures that Arsenal don’t come out of the January transfer window worse off than they were going into it.

It’s not the flashiest transfer buy, which may unfairly sour the taste of the deal. The sexy move would have been a big-money one for Moises Caicedo. The Gunners have called off their pursuit of the Ecuadorian, for now. But Mikel Arteta’s midfield still needed reinforcing for a Premier League title run, and that’s what moving for Jorginho does.

It’s understandable to feel a bit let down after seeing reports of a £70M bid for a 21-year old talent. That’s fun! Everybody loves a shiny new toy. When you need something to play with outside and the drone store is closed, a Frisbee will do the trick. It won’t go as high, have flashing lights, or buzz around, but you can take it to the park and it’ll fly.

If you guessed Mohamed Elneny (left) and Jorginho (right), then you’d be correct! That’s what this transfer move is — filling the roster spot created by Mohamed Elneny’s significant knee injury and extended absence. At 31, Jorginho is past his prime (writing that hurt me), but he’s still a talented player, one that probably is more maligned than he should be. From the tables above, he’s a better version of Mo Elneny.

Jorginho does more without the ball than I’ve given him credit for over the years. His ball recovery (tackles and interceptions) is top-notch. He’s not the most athletic player and certainly doesn’t have the pitch-coverage of Thomas Partey, but I think Jorginho’s range was particularly exposed by Chelsea wanting to keep their fullbacks wide. Add to that Conor Gallagher or whoever Graham Potter trotted in the midfield playing next to him, and Jorginho was often left isolated. That shouldn’t happen as often on an Arsenal side whose fullbacks play narrower and whose centerbacks step up aggressively to help recover the ball in midfield.

He isn’t Thomas Partey. There are few players in the world that are. And Arsenal weren’t ever signing one of those in the January transfer window. Realistically, the Gunners may not sign one of those to back up Partey, either. If the club bring in a player in the summer window around that level, for example Declan Rice, it will become a 1A / 1B situation. That’s a question for June and July, anyway.

Jorginho in the fold ensures that if Thomas Partey has to miss a handful of matches, Arsenal’s title hopes don’t go out the window the same way the Top Four chase did last season. He also helps protect Partey’s fitness by providing a viable alternative for Europa League matches and Premier League contests against middle to bottom third clubs, especially at the Emirates. Jorginho can come on for Partey, who has a tendency to look knackered down the stretch given all that is asked of him, in the final 10-15 minutes of matches. All those minutes add up and they matter. If Partey is carrying a slight knock and is a doubt midweek, Mikel Arteta can slot Jorginho in so as not to risk Thomas turning a small injury into a serious one. And if Arsenal don’t sell him in the summer, which I wouldn’t completely rule out, he provides those same functions next season, too.

Arsenal had an open spot on the depth chart. They filled it with a veteran player who should take little to no time getting up to speed in the side. It’s a sensible, high-floor, low-ceiling move that will hopefully be an insurance policy on which Arsenal aren’t forced into making a claim. Just because the move isn’t a headline-grabber doesn’t mean it isn’t a shrewd one that helps the club.