Football News

Layvin Kurzawa: Is PSG’s Champions League rarity the man to solve one particular ‘crisis’ at Arsenal?

By Ben Green

Layvin Kurzawa to Arsenal transfer news and analysis

Published: 18:05, 17 January 2020

Arsenal are in discussions with Paris Saint-Germain over a cut-price deal for left-back Layvin Kurzawa, according to reports.

The 27-year-old will see his present deal expire in the summer, meaning he is free to negotiate terms with foreign clubs, but Mikel Arteta is thought to want the full-back this January as he is currently plagued by injury problems in defence.

Arsenal to sign Kurzawa this January? Five things to know…

  • Arsenal are in ‘advanced talks’ to sign Kurzawa from PSG, according to journalist David Ornstein.
  • Kurzawa’s contract expires in June and he has started just six Ligue 1 games this season.
  • It is claimed Arsenal hope to sign him without paying a fee, but reports in France set PSG’s asking price at £6 million.
  • Kurzawa himself fuelled speculation on Friday morning by announcing on Twitter that he has switched agents.
  • Teenage winger Bukayo Saka is Arsenal’s only fit left-back option currently, with Kieran Tierney and Sead Kolasinac both injured.

Do Arsenal need to sign another left-back?

Summer recruit Kieran Tierney dislocated his right shoulder in early December and is not expected back until March. Sead Kolasinac, meanwhile, has had recurring issues with his ankle and thigh, meaning Arteta is exceptionally lightweight in the left-back area.

“We are playing with full-backs that are not full-backs,” Arsenal manager Arteta recently said. “They are wingers or central midfielders and could we afford to lose full-backs? No, but we don’t have any full-backs.”

Those concerning words from a frustrated Arteta paint a clear picture of Arsenal’s current plight. The full-back area has been a cursed position for the Gunners this campaign, and the Spaniard looks intent to resolve the issue sooner rather than later. 

Right-back Hector Bellerin has continually struggled to stay fit, while a season-ending injury to Calum Chambers has raised the decibel levels on Arsenal’s crisis klaxon, making the signing of Kurzawa seem a logical move.

Kurzawa’s playing style:

  • Attacking: A search on smarterscout‘s ‘similar player’ tool returns Barcelona left-back Jordi Alba as a comparable player (stylistically, not necessarily in terms of quality, and based on Alba’s data in La Liga from last season). This appears to be largely because of the fact Kurzawa finds himself high up the pitch far more often than your typical full-back. He averages 2.76 touches in the opponent’s box per 90 minutes during the current Ligue 1 season so far, the second-highest average of any defender in the division. Playing for PSG would help boost these numbers, however. The highest average outright recorded by a defender belongs to Kurzawa’s teammate, Juan Bernat.
  • Defending: Receiving the ball in the box is also a tendency Kurzawa has in common with the Nacho Monreal we saw at Arsenal in the 2016/17 season, as is the frequency with which he passes generally and contests aerial duels (relative to the average left-back). Kurzawa on average contests 3.4 headed duels per 90 minutes played.
  • Arteta ready? Kurzawa scores the maximum rating of 99 in smarterscout’s ‘style ratings’ for link-up play – which measures any passes that don’t bring the ball at least 10 meters closer to the centre of the opponent’s goal – and well above average for ball retention, which reflects “the likelihood that a team will keep possession after a player touches the ball.”
Kurzawa compared to left backs with which Arsenal fans will be familiar

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So why are PSG willing to let Kurzawa leave?

At a glance, Kurzawa looks an archetypal Arsenal player. And he also comes with a certain amount of prestige. This is a former Ligue 1 Team of the Year member who has won three league titles with PSG, one who’s also the only defender to ever score a Champions League hat-trick since 1993. Such is his vigour and enterprise in terms of attacking play, he would seamlessly slot into Arteta’s over-lapping full-back system, right?

And yet the acquisition of Kurzawa is unlikely to get Arsenal fans off their feet.

A number question marks hang over Kurzawa. He has rarely been a regular starter at PSG and is injury prone, for two things. According to Transfermarkt, he has missed 43 games due to fitness issues across his four-and-a-bit seasons in Paris.

Kurzawa’s character has previously come under criticism. One notable episode came during a 2015 U21s Euros qualifier, where Kurzawa’s premature celebration against Sweden backfired (see below). More recently, reports in France last November claimed there are internal concerns over his motivation and attacking contributions. For his part, Kurzawa has said past criticism is unfair and that he has matured significantly since the birth of his daughter.

Kurzawa does provide a diverse set of qualities that could prove extremely useful to Arteta in this current moment, not to mention the fact his low fee certainly makes for a very tempting proposition as a short-term solution to Arsenal’s fitness issues. But come the summer, Arteta could have three fit and available left-backs to contend with.

On Friday morning Kurzawa confirmed he has signed up to Sports Invest UK, an agency owned by lifelong Arsenal fan Kia Joorabchian. Though he rejects his ‘agent’ label,  Joorabchian is widely held to have facilitated the appointment of Edu Gaspar as sporting director last summer. Arsenal centre-back David Luiz, one of 2019’s most unexpected transfer deals, is also a client. So Kurzawa’s newfound Joorabchian connection has led to suggestions any Arsenal transfer might be is driven by more than merit alone.

All of these factors have conspired to raise one or two eyebrows among those with knowledge of Kurzawa and Arsenal’s current recruitment set-up.

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