Once again, Arsenal are set to make an effective pivot in a productive transfer window for the Premier League leaders.
Earlier in January, Mikel Arteta and director of football Edu turned their attention towards Leandro Trossard, securing the Brighton winger for a cut-price £21million after Chelsea stumped up a huge up-front fee for Mykhailo Mudryk, the Shakhtar Donetsk winger who had been long-coveted by the Gunners.
But Arsenal found Brighton to be far less amenable when it came to trying to prise Ecuador midfielder Moises Caicedo from the south coast.
A bust-up between Trossard and Seagulls boss Roberto De Zerbi created an opportunity for Arsenal to exploit but, after reported bids in the region of £60m and £70m, it became clear Brighton were not about to budge on Caicedo.
Meanwhile, Chelsea’s ongoing commitment to spending big and potentially securing Argentina World Cup hero Enzo Fernandez in a British record deal meant there was a need to shift some players out of the exit door.
MORE: Arsenal transfer news: Gunners close in on Jorginho as Moises Caicedo alternative
As such, with six months left on his contract, Jorginho emerged as a viable alternative to Caicedo for Arteta.
The deep-lying Italy playmaker will be far from the first player to swap the Kings Road for Islington in the Premier League era, but does this deal make sense for an Arsenal squad chasing glory?
Why are Arsenal signing Jorginho?
Arsenal’s march to the top of the table, where they hold a five-point lead over champions Manchester City with a game in hand, has been built upon the superb midfield alliance formed between Thomas Partey, Granit Xhaka and Martin Odegaard.
Odegaard, along with right-winger Bukayo Saka is in player-of-the-season form for Arsenal and his loss through injury at any stage would be a huge setback. However, Arteta does have a like-for-like replacement in the form of Emile Smith Rowe.
Further back in midfield, things look pretty sparse in terms of depth and high-quality cover.
Partey has finally put the injury problems that have dogged his time in England behind him this term to be an influential performer. Were the former Atletico Madrid lynchpin to be laid low for any period of time, it would count as a significant blow against Arsenal’s title aspirations.
When Partey was substituted at halftime following a blow to the ribs in last Friday’s FA Cup fourth-round tie at City, Sambi Lokonga’s introduction coincided with the hosts’ strongest period of the contest, during which time Nathan Ake scored the decisive goal in a 1-0 win for Pep Guardiola’s side.
It was a stark drop-off and the more experienced cover provided by Mohamed Elneny is no longer available after the Egypt international suffered a serious knee injury that will require surgery.
A resurgent Xhaka would also hypothetically be a big loss at any stage, although one option would be Oleksandr Zincheko reverting to the midfield role he plays at international level for Ukraine.
As such, the absence of a quality alternative to Partey remained Arteta’s primary concern. Albert Sambi Lokonga also looks set to be joining Crystal Palace on loan.
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How does Jorginho compare to Moises Caicedo and Thomas Partey?
A hit-and-miss record when dealing with former Chelsea players (let’s deal with the elephant in the room… Willian!) has led to something of a mixed reaction to this transfer, alongside the obvious complication that Jorginho is a hastily acquired second-choice.
On the other hand, Arsenal are getting a proven winner with Euro 2020 and Champions League medals in his collection. A little over a year ago he was being discussed as an outside bet for the Ballon d’Or.
Jorginho’s pedigree as a high-class operator at the base of the midfield is pretty ironclad, while Arteta was part of Guardiola’s coaching team when City embarked upon a lengthy pursuit of the player before he opted to follow Maurizio Sarri from Napoli to Chelsea in 2018.
Now 31 and never the most dynamic of operators, there might be concerns that Jorginho does not have the required level of verve and combativeness for this exciting Arsenal team.
According to Opta, Jorginho has been dribbled past an average of 1.62 times per 90 minutes this season, comparing somewhat unfavourably to Partey (0.9) and Caicedo (0.45).
However, the senior man’s expert reading of the game and anticipation means he fares well across other defensive metrics. His 1.48 interceptions per 90 minutes puts him on a par with Caicedo and outstrips Partey.
Jorginho has also won slightly more duels per 90 minutes than the Ghanaian and has a comparable duel success rate to both his counterparts. His average of winning back possession 8.36 times each game is also the best of the three, with Caicdeo lagging relatively on 6.38.
Jorginho vs. Caicedo vs. Partey: Defensive stats per 90 minutes in 2022/23
|Player||Duels won||Duel success||Tackles won||Possession won||Interceptions||Clearances||Blocks||Dribbled past|
In possession, Jorginho falls shot of Partey’s prowess in terms of carrying the ball, with the Arsenal man’s 0.71 dribbles completed per 90 and 6.33 progressive carries putting him comfortably out in front. However, Caicedo tracks similarly to Jorginho on these metrics.
A sublime range of passing is another Jorginho calling card and it is no surprise to see his pass completion above over 85%, much like Partey and Caicedo – the latter leading the way with 88.2%.
Jorginho has the fewest instances of chances created per 90 minutes and passes ending in the final third, but this could as much be a result of him playing in a disjointed and unsettled Chelsea team this season when compared to the well-oiled machines Partey and Caicdeo are part of at Arsenal and Brighton.
Caicedo is the most careful with the ball at his feet, while Partey is the most effective running with it, but Jorginho hits a more-than-acceptable middle ground.
Jorginho vs. Caicedo vs. Partey: Possession stats per 90 mins in 2022/23
|Player||Goals+Assists||Chances creates||Successful passes ending final 1/3||Passing accuracy||Possession lost||Dribbles completed||Total carries||Progressive carries||Chance-created ending carries|
Overall, the numbers suggest Jorginho compares pretty well to Caicedo and he brings the intangible quality of elite-level success. He might not be the perfect solution but there are precious few of those in a January transfer window.
Like when they moved for Trossard, Arsenal have proved themselves to be adept at thinking on their feet and finding a good value alternative to their primary target.
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