Jakub Kiwior finding feet at Arsenal ahead of biggest test yet

Jakub Kiwior has not had an easy first year at Arsenal, but there are now signs he has turned a corner.

In the absence of Oleksandr Zinchenko and Takehiro Tomiyasu, the 24-year-old has started their last two games at left-back.

Kiwior has helped Arsenal keep clean sheets in both matches and could be called upon for Wednesday’s Champions League clash in Porto.

It would be his biggest game for Arsenal since joining from Spezia last January for £21million.

But Kiwior showed in Arsenal’s important 3-1 win over Liverpool earlier this month, when he came off the bench at half-time, that he is ready to step up.

The Poland international was originally signed as direct competition for Gabriel, because Mikel Arteta always likes one of his two centre-backs to be left footed.

Opportunities have been hard to come by, though, and Kiwior has started just 16 games for Arsenal.

One of his biggest assets is his versatility and he has now found a home at left-back, with Arsenal struggling due to injuries to Jurrien Timber, Tomiyasu and Zinchenko.

Kiwior is comfortable playing on the left of the defence, thanks largely to the fact he never really nailed down a position during his youth career.

He operated at left-back, midfield and centre-back before joining Spezia in 2021.

It was in Italy where he matured into a centre-back and regularly studied videos of Sergio Ramos, who he idolised.

At Arsenal, the partnership of Gabriel and William Saliba has denied Kiwior getting a look-in at centre-back and he initially found it difficult at left-back too.

The position is a complex one under Arteta, who likes the player operating there to tuck into midfield when Arsenal have possession.

Many players have struggled with it and only last week Kieran Tierney, who is now on loan at Real Sociedad, said it was “alien” to him.

Kiwior has had his own difficulties and at half-time of the defeat to Fulham on New Year’s Eve he was hooked at half-time.

Turnaround: Kiwior has impressed during Arsenal’s recent run of big results (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
Turnaround: Kiwior has impressed during Arsenal’s recent run of big results (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

A few days later, Arteta did not mention Kiwior by name, but his words suggested that would be the last time he was given such a role.

“We have to play to the strengths of the players, that is the first thing,” Arteta said. “I don’t want players to do things that they don’t feel comfortable doing.”

Arteta has since asked Kiwior to play as a conventional left-back, inverting Ben White from the other flank instead, and it has led to an upturn in performances.

Kiwior has looked solid, especially in the air where his height is a huge asset, but his ability on the ball has also caught the eye.

During the 5-0 win over Burnley on Saturday, it was Kiwior who helped created Leandro Trossard’s goal by overlapping down the left side.

It was not easy for Kiwior moving to London a year ago and it has taken time for him to learn English.

A Polish member of staff at Arsenal’s training ground, Piotr, has helped him settle and Zinchenko has also played a key role.

Kiwior has also struck up a bond with young goalkeeper Hubert Graczyk, who is also from Poland.

When Tomiyasu and Zinchenko return, Kiwior will find it hard to keep his place.

But, on recent evidence, he will not give up his position in the team without a fight.