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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Simon Collings

Why Arsenal walked away from trusted transfer plan to sign Jorginho

Arsenal laid the foundations for their title charge by trusting young players, but now they are hoping experienced heads can help get them over the line.

The Gunners had planned to stick to their recruitment model during the January window by targeting talented youngsters with huge potential.

But, after being priced out of moves for Mykhailo Mudryk and Moises Caicedo, they pivoted to sign two experienced Premier League players in Leandro Trossard and Jorginho.

It is not how Arsenal usually operate, but they felt they could not waste what is a golden opportunity to win their first title since 2003-04.

Jorginho brings bags of experience. (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

Mikel Arteta described his squad as "short" before the start of the window and he will be happy with the club's business.

Arsenal signed Trossard for £26million, Polish centre-back Jakub Kiwior for £21m and then Jorginho in a £12m deal from Chelsea on deadline day.

Jorginho and Trossard will be expected to hit the ground running and immediately add competition to the squad.

The signing of Jorginho has received mixed feedback from supporters, who are perhaps still burned by memories of when Willian joined from Chelsea.

Willian, like Jorginho, was in his 30s when he moved to Emirates Stadium, and a disastrous move ended with his contract being ripped up after a year.

The modest fee and an 18-month contract for Jorginho makes this deal more understandable.

With Mohamed Elneny out for the rest of the season with a knee injury, Arsenal had to bring in someone as cover and competition for Thomas Partey.

Caicedo was their No1 target, but Brighton insisted he was not for sale and rejected two bids, with the second at £70m. Jorginho came out of left field, but the move made sense — and statistically he compares well to Caicedo. Per 90 minutes this season, the pair have averaged a similar number of tackles (3.0 for Jorginho and 2.9 for Caicedo) and for interceptions they both average 1.5.

There are concerns about Jorginho's defensive capabilities and mobility, but for Chelsea this season he is first in ball recoveries and interceptions.

While the 31-year-old Italian may not be at the same level of Partey, he is undoubtedly an upgrade on Albert Sambi Lokonga and Elneny.

Lokonga's departure on loan to Crystal Palace means Arsenal have not increased their numbers in midfield. But there is little doubt the quality in that area has risen, which is key as the Gunners bid to stay top of the table.

Arteta is a long-term admirer of Jorginho and wanted to sign him in 2020. A Champions League and Euro 2020 winner, he has vast experience and was a vice-captain at Chelsea.

(Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

That experience will be valuable in an Arsenal dressing room containing a number of young players, and Arteta will not have any concerns about throwing Jorginho into big matches.

Jorginho is likely to feature against lesser opposition when Arsenal will dominate possession, which should

suit him. He likes to dictate the tempo of games and act as playmaker from deep, and he could help break down stubborn defences in tight matches.

Arsenal did not completely abandon their recruitment model last month. Kiwior is a 22-year-old who clearly fits their usual style, and their pursuits of Caicedo and Mudryk were in line with their transfer strategy.

The club has shown it will not pay over the odds for players if it perceives their valuation is too high. The Gunners walked away from a deal for Lisandro Martinez last summer and did so again with Caicedo and Mudryk.

By doing so, Arsenal will have the ability to spend big on a new midfielder in the summer — and West Ham captain Declan Rice is their No1 target.

Rice is likely to be available for around £80m, but that figure will not put off Arsenal.

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