Arsene Wenger seems to enjoy a surprise signing on the January transfer deadline day. Last season, he pounced to sign Nacho Monreal from Malaga, catching both the media and the Arsenal fans by surprise. This year, he has sprung a shock move for Swedish midfielder Kim Kallstrom.
In both instances, his hand was forced by injury. In 2013, Monreal was signed to cover for the enforced absence of Kieran Gibbs. This time around, Wenger has decided to act after injury and suspension robbed him of Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini respectively. Flamini’s ban will see him miss games against Crystal Palace, Liverpool and Manchester United. The latest prognosis in The Guardian suggests that Ramsey will be out even longer than that. In the area of the field where Arsenal had looked strongest, options were suddenly thin on the ground.
Nevertheless, no one could have predicted Kallstrom’s arrival. Prior to today, the player hadn’t been linked with Arsenal in this window, or indeed any window in the past few years. However, no sooner had Arsene Wenger alluded to the need for a central midfielder in his pre-match press conference for Arsenal.com than the Swede’s name started circulating among the media. Now, according to Dave Hytner of The Guardian, he is in London and preparing to complete the move. Although the deal is not yet done, it appears a formality.
Wenger’s awareness of Kallstrom will stem primarily from his time in Ligue 1. The Sweden international starred in the French league between 2004 and 2012, spending two years with Rennes before moving to Lyon.
According to Sport Witness, the initial reaction in Sweden was one of incredulity.
It’s an understandable response: due to the Russian winter break and the fact he has been out of favour at Spartak Moscow, Kallstrom has hardly played since November.
However, when he has played, he has shown a versatility that could prove useful to Wenger. According to WhoScored, Kallstrom has played both as a holding midfielder and an attacking midfielder. This could enable him to provide cover for both Mathieu Flamini and Aaron Ramsey.
WhoScored’s analysis of Kallstrom’s performances this season tell us a bit more about the style of play he will bring to the Arsenal midfield.
Kallstrom is a combative midfielder. He is robust in the challenge and strong in the air—something Arsenal have lacked in central midfield since the sale of Alex Song to Barcelona.
He’s also blessed with an excellent left foot. He can strike the ball well from range, and is a considerable threat at set pieces—another area where Arsenal historically struggle. In the fight for trophies, goals from direct free-kicks can be game-changing and season-defining.
Kallstrom also brings vital experience to the squad. At 31, he has been around the block. As a defensive midfielder, that learned understanding of the game is particularly useful. He has more than 100 caps for Sweden, and immediately becomes Arsenal’s second-most capped player behind Lukas Podolski. He has even represented his country in three European Championships and a World Cup.
Crucially, he also knows what it taken to win a league title. Kallstrom won Ligue 1 twice with Lyon. He’ll be eager to repeat that feat in England with Arsenal.
Kallstrom’s signing is not one to get the heart racing. After John Cross of The Mirror had linked Arsenal with Schalke’s exciting attacking midfielder Julian Draxler earlier in the window, the Swede’s arrival is something of an anti-climax. Arsenal fans will also be left wondering how, once again, they have come to the end of a transfer window without recruiting a striker.
However, Kallstrom brings depth to the squad in an area where Arsenal had begun to look vulnerable. Depending on the availability of other players, he may barely play for the Gunners between now and May. However, if called upon, he has the experience and the quality to do a decent job. Kallstrom may not be spectacular, but he ought to be solid.