Have Mikel Arteta’s Gunners done enough in January transfer window to win Premier League?
Five points clear at the top of the Premier League, with a game in hand to boot, and a young, exciting squad headed by an increasingly impressive manager. All has to be rosy at Arsenal, right?
It’s fair to say, however, that the January window hasn’t quite gone as ideally as the league leaders, bidding to win a first domestic title since 2004, would have liked.
Of their top two transfer targets, Mykhailo Mudryk chose Arsenal’s London rivals Chelsea over the Gunners, while bids for Brighton’s Moises Caicedo have been repeatedly rebuffed.
That has led to the arrivals of Leandro Trossard and Jorginho appearing to be second-choice signings to some, but should that necessarily be the case for two experienced top-flight operators?
Since the Premier League began in 1992, Arsenal are the ninth team to hold a lead of between five to eight points – to factor in their game in hand – after 19 games, the mid-point, of the season.
Of the previous eight, only two – Norwich, in the very first Premier League campaign in 1992-93, and Liverpool, in 2018-19 – have not gone on to win the title.
The Reds’ failed bid four years ago will be of most pertinence to the Gunners, given it was Manchester City, Arsenal’s closest title rivals, who overhauled them.
So has January been a missed opportunity – or did Arsenal already have enough in their ranks to ensure they will get over the line despite their minimal winter business?
In some circles, the capture of Jorginho from Chelsea has been regarded as an underwhelming one – a Plan B, at best, after the failed bid for Brighton’s 21-year-old Ecuadorian midfielder Caicedo.
The signing of a 31-year-old on a relatively short-term deal also does not really fit with the Gunners’ recruitment policy under Arteta, where the ethos has been to bring in players in their early to mid-20s such as Gabriel Jesus, Oleksandr Zinchenko and Martin Odegaard.
But, pushing that to one side for one moment, Jorginho’s arrival strengthens Arsenal in one key area, an almost intangible area – the art of winning.
“I think Jorginho is a clever signing,” said former Tottenham and England striker Darren Bent on Twitter. “Premier League experience, has a winner’s mentality.
“My only concern maybe is out of possession, mobility wise. But a good bit of business.”
The Times chief football writer Henry Winter agreed, writing: “Don’t understand some Arsenal fans’ antipathy towards Jorginho. Experienced, a winner, breaks up play, rarely wastes possession (although unimaginative). Bit slow but good cover for Arsenal.”
The aforementioned duo of Jesus and Zinchenko won virtually everything there is to win while at Manchester City but the Brazilian is out until at least March and the Ukraine defender has missed large chunks of the season with injury too.
Even the influential Odegaard only has one Copa del Rey to his name, while Arsenal’s solitary trophy under Arteta was the 2020 FA Cup – of the current squad only Granit Xhaka, Rob Holding, Kieran Tierney and Eddie Nketiah played in that final.
By contrast Jorginho, in 2021, became the first ever player to win the European Championship, the Champions League and Super Cup in the same year, playing in all three finals.
Former Spurs midfielder Michael Brown believes the move could be “an unbelievable signing” for Arsenal.
“He’ll fit in perfectly with Arsenal’s philosophy,” Brown told BBC Sport. “He is so cool and he comes having won the Champions League and the Euros, carrying all that success.”
While the failure to bring in Mudryk was a blow to Arsenal – who also signed young Polish defender Jakub Kiwior during January – the numbers suggest Trossard is a more than an adequate alternative.
The Belgium forward has scored as many goals this season – seven – as Mudryk has managed in the Ukrainian top flight, where, it is fair to say, the quality is lower.
Mudryk has provided five more assists – seven to two – but in a side that has notched 45 goals in 19 games, a tally bettered only by City’s 53 in 20 matches, Arsenal are hardly short on creativity.
The Ukrainian is averaging a goal or assist every 65 minutes, compared to Trossard’s one every 147, but it remains to be seen whether he can reproduce those numbers in a more competitive league, while the former Brighton man is a proven Premier League commodity.
The comparisons between Jorginho and Caicedo are even more interesting.
The Italian has garnered perhaps an unfair reputation as a “sideways” footballer yet, over the past season and a half, has averaged more passes in the final third per game (20.4) than Caicedo (14.7) and more forward passes too (20 to 14.5).
Jorginho has also carried the ball more successfully (109m per game to Caicedo’s 97) and wins possession more often (8.3 times per game to 6.7).
The 31-year-old is leading Chelsea in terms of ball recoveries per game, interceptions and tackles this season – oh, and he’s pretty reliable from the penalty spot too.
There’s no doubt that Mudryk and Caicedo, at 22 and 21 respectively, would offer more long-term upside than the older pair of Trossard and Jorginho – but Arsenal are not short on youth and potential.
Indeed, it could be argued that nous and experience is exactly what’s needed for the nerve-shredding run-in – rather than big-name or big-money additions that could upset a happy, settled squad.
‘Proven winner’, ‘Big influence’ or ‘Underwhelming’? Your views
Ashley: “Jorginho is not an exciting signing but I can live with an 18-month deal. Ultimately we just need him to start our Europa League games and cover for Partey and Xhaka in the league in emergencies. We have shown that we have big money to spend on at least one if not two exciting midfield signings in the summer so I can live with that for now.”
Miles: “Don’t understand my fellow Arsenal fans’ feeling towards Jorginho signing. Proven winner, cheap in today’s market and is a squad player. Shrewd business if you ask me.”
Bobo: “A lot of disgruntled Arsenal fans missing the point on Jorginho – you need a technical player who can fit Mikel Arteta’s tactical system. Your whole success is built on players buying into that very system!”
John: “Jorginho to Arsenal is the most underwhelming news of the transfer window. Old, slow, sideways passing will ruin the flow of the team Mikel Arteta has built.”
Simon: “A couple of years ago Jorginho was among the best in the world, has winning experience and adds depth to Arsenal’s midfield where behind Xhaka and Partey they don’t have much. He could have a big influence on the run-in.”
Dave: “I’d rather have Jorginho for £12m than Caicedo for £80m+, I think. Good squad player with plenty of experience. Save the money and go for Declan Rice in the summer.”