After buying Leandro Trossard from Brighton, Arsenal are now closing in on a deal to sign Spezia centre-back Jakub Kiwior.
The Gunners are trying to improve their squad depth as they look to win their first Premier League title since the 2003/04 season.
According to reports in Italy, Mikel Arteta’s side have agreed to pay €25m for Kiwior, who is a relatively unknown name to most Arsenal fans.
We’ve brought you the lowdown on the Poland international ahead of his move to the Emirates.
His career so far
Born in Southern Poland in February 2000, Kiwior started his career at local side GKS Tychy before joining the youth team at Anderlecht, where he played alongside Albert Sambi Lokonga.
The defender moved to Slovakia with Zeleziarne Podbrezova in January 2019 and made his senior debut the day after his 19th birthday.
He couldn’t prevent their relegation at the end of the 2018/19 season and then made a short trip north to MSK Zilina, who are famed for producing Inter Milan centre-back Milan Skriniar.
In the summer of 2021, Kiwior completed a €2.2m move to Spezia, where he has made 43 appearances and developed a reputation as one of Serie A’s most promising defenders.
An impressive debut season in Italy caught the attention of the Poland national team, and he made his international debut during a 2-2 draw against the Netherlands in the UEFA Nations League in June 2022.
He most recently featured for his country at the World Cup, starting all four of their matches in Qatar before their last-16 exit. The defender helped Poland keep two clean sheets and they only conceded goals against eventual finalists Argentina and France.
The 22-year-old has already managed to impress compatriot Robert Lewandowski, who reportedly told Barcelona to sign him in 2022.
According to reports in Italy, he has been closely monitored by Juventus and AC Milan during the last few months and Spezia recently rejected a €22m bid from Borussia Dortmund.
Inter Milan, Roma, Napoli, Atletico Madrid, RB Leipzig and West Ham United were also showing an interest in Kiwior before Arsenal agreed a deal with Spezia.
Style of play
Kiwior is left-footed and predominantly plays in the middle of a back three, although he is also comfortable playing as a left-sided centre-back in a back four.
He will provide competition for Gabriel in the Arsenal back line as William Saliba, Ben White and Rob Holding are all right-footed.
The Poland international has proven himself to be a versatile figure throughout his short career as he is also capable of playing at left-back and as a defensive midfielder.
Standing at 6ft 2in, Kiwior excels in physical duels and recently performed well against Juventus’ Dusan Vlahovic and Inter Milan’s Romelu Lukaku.
The 22-year-old is also renowned for his composure and ability on the ball as he steps out of defence and plays a key role in Spezia’s build-up play.
Arsenal’s new signing Jakub Kiwior left foot is unreal 📍
Arteta needed that balance on the left 🤝pic.twitter.com/DgwwW4yMEd
— TheSecretScout (@TheSecretScout_) January 20, 2023
What he’s said
– “We arrived at the stadium, I went to see the pitch, which I always do, and then the warm-up and the game,” he told Mateusz Janiak when reflecting on his Serie A debut against Inter.
“During the match, I didn’t think about where and against whom I was playing, I just focused on the tasks. I just wanted to do my thing. Only afterwards did I realize that I had made my San Siro debut with the national champion.”
He added: “I knew it might be difficult, but I was really curious myself to see what it would look like. How is it to play against players you’ve only seen on TV before? Will there be such a big difference between them and me?
“But somehow I managed. Each successful action gave me confidence. Minute by minute I was trying to improve my positioning and playing.
“In the second half I was completely calm, the guys were not afraid to play with me, in this match I recorded the most contacts with the ball of all the games I played in.”
🚨 Jakub Kiwior's agent, @rkedzior:
“Just before New Year's Eve, Jakub had a telephone conversation with Mikel Arteta, who told him many details, presented a plan for him and what the road to playing may look like. He was enchanted.” @Meczykipl pic.twitter.com/ueVuAbSbTL
— Eduardo Hagn (@EduardoHagn) January 22, 2023
What they’ve said about him
– “He has great potential,” Barcelona’s Robert Lewandowski said in September 2022 when asked about his international team-mate. “During the warm-up of the game with the Netherlands, I thought: ‘Who is this guy?’
“Then, during the match, I saw that he is extraordinary.”
– “He is a boy who wants to learn and has humility,” Lewandowski added. “Even if he makes a few mistakes, he doesn’t get discouraged and quickly draws conclusions. He’s a player who can help us be a better team.”
– “He deserved to be here, he didn’t get it for free,” Poland manager Czesław Michniewicz said after Kiwior’s international debut. “His calmness is striking, he receives the ball, he has good technique, good passing. He is taught how to play defence in Italy.”
– “Kiwior came as an unknown player, and with his attitude against the Netherlands, he showed today that he can be the one we have been looking for for years,” Michniewicz added after a 1-0 defeat to Belgium.
“He has a left foot, a lot of calm in the game, smart positioning and great technique.
– “He didn’t play much at the beginning, but he has trained well. We needed a player who would give us more balance and we found it in Jakub,” former Spezia manager Thiago Motta said after Kiwior’s debut against Inter Milan.
“We also tried him in midfield, he is a smart player and works very hard. It’s a difficult role, but he manages to do it. He gives us balance and it’s what we were looking for.
– “This is football, we have to be ready to deal with any situation,” Spezia manager Luca Gotti said when reacting to Kiwior’s departure. “I am very happy for Kiwior and this opportunity he created for himself.
“It is also the biggest sale in Spezia’s history and I imagine the club is happy with that too. However, I cannot be happy with it.”
– “Good scouting from Arsenal here,” Serie A expert Matteo Bonetti wrote on Twitter. “Kiwior has been very impressive for Spezia. Looks very composed for his age – should develop into a starter long-term.
“Kiwior’s ability on the ball is likely what got the interest of Arsenal. Nice passing range and confident building out from the back.”