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Why are the Gunners bringing Jakub Kiwior?



Jakub Kiwior in a duel with Lionel Messi.

At the age of 22, Jakub Kiwior is already playing football in his fifth country. But the central defender is not an unadaptable wanderer, but a high-flyer who has maneuvered himself into the Premier League leader with good performances for Spezia and during the World Cup. But why are Arsenal taking Kiwior and making him the fifth most expensive Polish player in history?

Some time ago, when Jakub Kiwior was announced as Arsenal, many a football fan would have asked: Who? But at the latest his appearances at the World Cup have made the central defender known to a large audience. Kiwior didn’t get past the round of 16 with Poland, but he has just taken a big step personally.

After a year and a half at Spezia Calcio, Kiwior has joined the Premier League leaders for a fee of €25m, who are currently trying to strengthen the squad so the Gunners don’t run out of fuel at the back of the season. The top-class competition that Arsenal are rumored to have had when courting the 22-year-old alone speaks for his qualities. Allegedly, BVB and RB Leipzig (as a potential successor to Josko Gvardiol) also competed for his services. In addition, Robert Lewandowski is said to have recommended his compatriot to the bosses of FC Barcelona.

Kiwior was little known for a long time because he first went to Slovakia from the Anderlecht youth academy and played there for FK Železiarne Podbrezová and MŠK Žilina. For Žilina he played eight games in the Europa Conference League qualifier. That was it with international appearances in the professional field. The transfer to Serie A was the first step not only to develop further in a top league, but also to attract attention in general.

Spezia Calcio has already amassed some interesting talent that previously only really mattered to insiders. Kiwior moved forward from this group, made his national team debut last year and shortly afterwards took advantage of the Qatar stage. The player himself fits in well with Arsenal’s requirement profile for central defenders due to his ball skills. The typical highlight videos and game recaps often show Kiwior’s long-passing game, which the left foot undoubtedly has, although in Serie A the pressing pressure against the first line of the possession team is sometimes manageable.

Jakub Kiwior: “Further Development” in London

However, Kiwior is not one who only produces a few nice show balls and otherwise contributes little. Kiwior likes to dribble against the first pressing row, even if it’s a bit deep, to trigger his own team’s build-up play. This style of play suits Mikel Arteta well, with some Premier League teams often using the first pressing phase with more speed than in Serie A and also two or three traps.

The positive thing about this transfer is that it will take place in winter, giving Kiwior a certain amount of time to get used to it. “I’ve been following Jakub for some time and we’re all looking forward to seeing him develop further with us,” Arsenal sporting director Edu said on the occasion of the announcement.

Of course, such statements are not really succinct, but the term “further development” seems quite coherent considering Kiwior’s current level of performance and wealth of experience.

Jakub Kiwior: Take an alternative career path

Arsenal already have four centre-backs, including a left-footed player in Gabriel. The coming weeks will show us how much Arteta wants to experiment in the championship race and how much Kiwior will throw in. Kiwior could also play on the six, having only done so once this Serie A season for Spezia. A few appearances to get used to the Premier League would definitely be an advantage.

This applies not only to the game structure, but also to tasks in the final defense. In Serie A, the Pole was able to make use of his speed and almost disembodiedly to clear up situations or separate attackers directly from the ball and initiate counterattacks. There are a lot of speed machines sprinting around in England these days. Again, anticipation and the ability to read the striker’s movement and control of the ball are just as important as your own speed and agility.

Should the Pole finally prevail at Arsenal, that might also motivate others to think about alternative career paths. Anyone who goes to Anderlecht from Poland as a teenager and then makes his professional debut in Slovakia and then joins a smaller Serie A club is already walking off the beaten path. In any case, Kiwior did not suffer the fate of so many talents who remain in the academies of top clubs for a long time and only make the leap after important learning years are over.

And for Arsenal, the failed Mykhailo-Mudryk deal could yet prove to be a boon, although the Ukrainian hinted on his Chelsea debut that he could become an X-factor. But the Gunners still have some remaining budget – for example for an alternative to Thomas Partey.

Arsenal FC: The top half of the Premier League table

place team Sp. Gates differential pt.
1. arsenal 19 45:16 29 50
2. Manchester City 20 53:20 33 45
3. Newcastle United 20 33:11 22 39
4. Manchester United 20 32:25 7 39
5. Tottenham Hotspur 21 40:31 9 36
6. Brighton & Hove Albion 19 37:27 10 31
7. Fulham 21 32:30 2 31
8th. Brentford 20 32:28 4 30
9. Liverpool 19 34:25 9 29
10 Chelsea 20 22:21 1 29