Arsenal are reportedly on the verge of signing Jakub Kiwior from Serie A side Spezia for ~£25m on a 5.5 year deal. I have experience watching Serie A but not much with Spezia in particular. I have seen him play a few times my impression is that he’s a very good one on one defender, with a great range of passing, who can play in a variety of positions, and who has a bit of technical skill about him to get out of trouble under pressure.
Kiwior played almost exclusively as a CM/DM last season and this season mostly as a CB. I admit I don’t remember much about him from 2021/22 because the one time Spezia played Atalanta that season, La Dea mopped them up and it was toward the end of the season when my attention span is very close to zero. I can say, however, that statistically there’s good evidence for why Luca Gotti moved him into the CB position. Plus Spezia have other MF options this season.
In short, Kiwior was below average in comparison to other midfielders in terms of passing and ball progression, but as he’s been moved back to the CB slot, those numbers have looked significantly better. I know he’s being touted as a solid backup for Arsenal’s #5 but I’m very cool on him playing as a MFer in the Premier League – not saying it’s not going to happen but just that I’d be surprised if he gets much, if any, time as a DM in a league that is as ruthless and physically and technically demanding as the Premier League.
He didn’t shine as a DM but as a CB, his overall passing numbers are almost double and he’s been able to hone in on one of his big talents: long range passing. He’s a left-footed player and we all know how much Arteta wants lefties to play on the left in defense and central midfield. One of the most impressive talents that Kiwior possesses is a switched long pass from left to right. Switches are a big part of Arteta’s Arsenal’s arsenal and Kiwior is (I believe) better at these types of long passes than Gabriel. I think you will enjoy watching him pick out Bukayo Saka on the right with a perfectly aimed 60 yard lofted diagonal (his specialty) when he gets the chance to play.
Under pressure he does like to dribble but it’s also not a crazy part of his game, we are talking less than 1 per contest even in midfield. My opinion is that he’s not as good as Saliba at dribbling and tends to overuse his left foot in these situations, Premier League players will be keyed into this right away. But! He’s not a terrible dribbler and as long as he’s not doing it all the time, it will serve him well to get out of pressure situations, and open up the field in front of him when the opponents press Arsenal high.
Defensively, he reads the game well, which is why he was put in the DM role. He’s aggressive in the tackle but not wild like Romero, and he is a very clean tackler, just 1 penalty in the last two years.
Overall, I think this is good business for the Arsenal. Kiwior is the type of signing we would have probably paid 15m for 6 months ago but Chelsea have inflated the market, Arsenal are top of the league (which has another tax), and Arsenal are buying in January rather than summer. LCB is one of the positions which I said we needed cover in this summer and so while I’m surprised by the timing of this signing, I’m not surprised by the type (left footed CB).
His versatility will come in handy at Arsenal, where we have players like Zinchenko sliding into midfield and Xhaka bombing forward. And I think that Kiwior is the exact type of player you would have seen a club like Brighton pick up for a few million and have had everyone in the Premier League coveting six months later. It’s also looking like Arsenal have pivoted away from spending big on one player and are looking to provide quality squad depth in many positions, which should make most folks happy.
I’m still worried about the DM position at Arsenal but many other folks seem convinced that we will go for a big ticket player there in the summer (Declan Rice is the most bandied name) and as such, buying a player who theoretically could help provide cover there (but is mostly cover for LCB) is a smart buy as it doesn’t gum up the works.
And finally,and most importantly, his girlfriend is the twerk queen of Germany.
Three points this weekend, please.
I’ve managed to gather a detailed scouting report via twitter in the past 20 minutes. 🤠
There is a video that shows him playing in the world cup for Poland. I somehow managed to watch a lot of Poland and regretted almost every minute of that. That they still managed to make it into the knockouts had to do with their defending which was good. I confess I didn’t notice Kiwior when I was watching those games. What the comp does illustrate quite well is that Poland trusted him to be their passing CB and initiate attacks from deep. He played several of those diagonals into the right channel that Tim spoke about. They even go to him straight from the kickoff like Arsenal do to Ramsdale to launch a diagonal that establishes possession or the counterpress in the opposition half.
I’m with Tim, I don’t see him as a midfielder at all. A bit like Ben White, he gets his ball playing ability from having played there but he would not be comfortable receiving possession facing his own goal. Not to mention the incredible learning curve (I keep saying this!!) it takes to master Arteta’s system as the single pivot.
Can he defend? He certainly has a robust frame and looks like he can cover ground. It’s hard to get a sense of his positioning and decision making without seeing it live. Doesnt seem error prone which is huge.
Overall he’s exactly the right profile to compete with Gabriel for LCB. Good enough to trust as an alternate but not not big enough to be unhappy with a squad role. Also a lot of room to develop still. It’s good value too for under 20 and apparently wanted by Borussia too.
short term, Smith rowe and trossard along with nketiah makes three alternate forwards to the first-choice of saka, martinelli and jesus.
(long-term, it is arguable that maybe arteta will want another left footed attacker next season, and smith rowe is probably planned for midfield considering arteta went for trossard and tried for felix and mudryk both which are all left wingers having already had martinelli)
Kiwior completes a good defensive unit that already had tierney and tomiyasu as backup players.
in midfield we have viera who is a decent backup to odegaard. and zinchenko is capable of filling in for xhaka.
all of which is to say that if arsenal are really in for Rice, it is unlikely there will be another midfield arrival in january, which makes Thomas Partey the singular make or break player for the title.
RISKY game, but also inevitable?
I don’t think there is another player in world football, with the possible exception of Rodri, who could come in and immediately do for us what Partey does. It took Thomas Partey 2 years to learn to do what he does. Any new player coming in should count on no less. El-Neny is probably a better option for us than most of the “squad level” holding midfielders we could buy because of his familiarity with the system. He does 90% of the Partey things defensively, but we take a big hit on ball progression. It’s a viable alternative though.
I actually think we have a much bigger problem in the Granit Xhaka position in terms of depth. There is no ready made squad player who is familiar with the role, which is complex and demanding in both phases. Lokonga looks completely out of sorts, Fabio is not ready from a defensive perspective, and Smith Rowe has never played that position, nor do I think he should try to adapt to it straight back from injury and in the middle of a season where every point is massive.
I would argue elneny does about 50% of what partey does.
He falls short in terms of not just ball progression, but also interceptions, ball recoveries and overall defensive output.
I agree with your larger point however that it is very hard to find a player that can do what partey does. Barcelona still haven’t found an alternative to busquets, chelsea haven’t found an alternative to kante, man city have just now got kalvin phillips after years of rodri and he still is hardly getting a game.
Arsenal are in a bit of akward position however considering how injury prone partey is. Maybe his injuries are behind him, but in general, it doesn’t serve well when the player who is the lynchpin of the system gets injured too often.
If Rice really is a target, he can probably deputise well for partey, if he is okay with playing second fiddle.
On your point about xhaka i agree as well, but arsenal probably need an update on xhaka not just somebody who can deputise him. He has played well this season, but with the role that he has got, somebody more athletic and with more ball carrying abilities probably could do much more with it. Ideally _that_ player could deputise for partey as well when needed and xhaka kind of serving as backup? Is rice that player?
I do think Rice is that player. I think he would primarily play instead of Xhaka while he learns the system, as long as Partey is fit. Gradually he will take over that deeper role from Thomas. I think that’s the ideal blueprint.
“Almost Cut My Hair”. Such a great song. While Stephen Stills and Neil Young weave a guitar panorama behind Crosby’s vocals, he lets loose and allows his “freak flag to fly”.
As we should all do.
You’re pretty high, dude. I personally feel like Crosby has been cheating death for 20 years. A beautiful voice, huh?
20 minutes at Anfield against an out of sorts Liverpool. I was surprised by how good his associate play was. He must have had 2-3 key passes in this brief cameo. I didn’t expect that level of subtlety to his game.
Chelsea didn’t use him well at all. They tried to build thorugh Ziyech instead, who can’t spot a pass if it hits him in the face. They barely used him to challenge Milner or Trent. The one time they did, he got Milner booked for a last ditch tackle.
The downsides were that he didn’t seem that interested in closing down or contributing defensively. He also had a couple of poor first touches when well placed. Like I said before, if he applies himself he will be incredible, but he will feel stifled in Potter’s system.
The quality of his link play stood out for me too. Oh sweet holy Mary, he was made for swapping passes and movement with Jesus, Ode and Xhaka. Oh well.
As I said before, I get Cristiano Ronaldo vibes for this missed transfer; but I totally respect Edu’s decision making around this.
Reading Adam Crafton’s piece in The Athletic, it was clear that Chelsea were Shakhtar’s preferred bidder, and Adam was too credulous to take at face value the claim that the club offered the same terms. What else were they going to say? Money swung it? The player and his agents were also offered a much bigger wage by Chelsea, and were financially wise to take that over 8+ years. Adam btw was the guy who troll picked a north London XI consisting solely of Spurs players, and I’ve never taken him seriously as a reporter since then.
He is going to be Spezial.
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