Feature: Why Arsenal and Arteta chose Jorginho

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When it became clear that Brighton were not budging on Moises Caicedo, Arsenal were presented with an array of midfield options from agents and intermediaries on deadline day. The whole world knew Arsenal needed another midfielder, but one name stuck out to manager Mikel Arteta, Jorginho.

Arteta’s trust

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Arteta had tried more than once to sign Jorginho from Chelsea in recent years. This was reported by a number of outlets, dating back to 2020 and Jorginho even confirmed it himself upon signing.

Many may wonder what help bringing Jorginho does when the club let Albert Sambi Lokonga leave on loan. But we’ve seen on a number of occasions this season that Arteta simply does not trust Lokonga.

Arsenal have been in a lot of winning positions and needed a fresh midfielder to come off the bench and kill the game by keeping the ball, Jorginho is the perfect player for this scenario. He ranks in the top 5% for passes completed per 90 (63.44). Most of these are short (31.86) or medium (26.14) in length.

This summarises Jorginho’s style nicely. He’s not a player to try the extravagant too often, but he’s a fairly press resistant dictator of play, knitting things together and conducting the pace of the game.

Due to the amount of passes, it has led to criticism about mainly passing backwards, but he still ranks in the top 10% of midfielders for passes into the final third (7.35) and progressive passes (5.44).

Arteta once said he wanted to kill the opposition with passes when ahead in games. Arsenal have got better at this, but they still lack control at times and especially an option off the bench who enables them to do this more.

I remember a game against Chelsea a couple of years ago where we were battering them, Jorginho came off the bench in the first half and changed the flow of the game completely. This will be a vital part of Arsenal’s armoury as the pressure ticks up. Jorginho, winner of the Euros for Italy and Champions League for Chelsea, should be able to cope with those pressure moments.

He will also be trusted to start Europa League knockout games, providing much needed respite to Granit Xhaka and Thomas Partey. We saw against Manchester City in the FA Cup recently, Arteta wanted to rotate his options but couldn’t trust another centre-midfielder from the start.

Something Caicedo would have provided is intensity and physicality in the duels. This is clearly not a strength of Jorginho, he is one of the most dribbled past players in the league. But statistically he still racks up a huge amount of tackles and interceptions, this is mainly due to his exceptional reading of the game.

This helps to make up for his lack of pace. With 4.51 interceptions+tackles per game, he also ranks in the top 10% for this metric.

If Jorginho needs to stand in for Partey in that deepest midfield role, Arsenal will need to ensure they are not caught in transition too often and they will require White and Zinchenko to take up their inverted positions to help stop those counter attacks. If Jorginho starts in Partey’s position in the Premier League, for me it is vital Zinchenko or Tomiyasu plays at left-back. Their inversions give that midfield base extra security in duels and transition and that will be even more vital when missing the athleticism of Partey in the holding role.

Chelsea fear – Will this one be different?

Now I fully understand the anxiety around signing a player past his peak from Chelsea. We have scars. Petr Cech, David Luiz and Willian all had mixed spells at the club, with the most recent (Willian) being particularly unsuccessful. This was my initial reaction and to be honest I still have it a bit. But I wanted to explore why this one may be different.

The first is the length of the contract. I’m surprised Jorginho has accepted a 18 month deal. That in itself gives me hope he’s not come for a final retirement package like the others did.

He was set to leave Chelsea on a free in the summer and with that he would have been presented with more lucrative, longer offers. He’s only just turned 31, given Arsenal’s desperation for a quick deal, on first hearing our interest I feared we may offer up a 2.5 or even 3.5 year deal. To Edu’s credit, he’s not made a long term commitment here, so it shouldn’t prevent attaining our first choice targets in the summer.

Do the second-choice targets leave Arsenal better equipped for this season?

Whilst Arsenal missed out on their first choice targets in Mudryk and Caicedo, Trossard and Jorginho may actually leave them better equipped for this season’s title charge. The combined fees of £30million, compared to the £170million+ it would’ve taken to sign their first choice targets, means there is a huge amount left in the kitty for summer reinforcements, too.

Ultimately in January the club haven’t taken a big leap in terms of building this squad for long term success, but they have de-risked in areas that had little or no cover, improved rotation and bench options and plugged in what could be a key dose of Premier League experience for the title run-in.

Jorginho feels very much an insurance signing and only time will tell if it was the right thing to do but on inspection and given the circumstances, it makes a lot of sense.

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