Speculation in recent days has gone into overdrive over Arsenal’s pursuit of Julian Draxler, but it is a significantly less spectacular signing that is likely to be the extent of the Gunners’ biannual deadline-day dip into their much-discussed coffers.
Draxler now appears all but certain to remain with Schalke, at least until the summer, after Arsenal failed to stump up the required cash. Instead, Swedish midfielder Kim Kallstrom looks poised to arrive on loan from Spartak Moscow until the end of the season. At first glance it is certainly not a piece of business that is going to wow Arsenal fan’s or convince them that their club can end their decade-long wait for a Premier League title.
Yet, taken individually, it is a deal that makes sense. While the transfer window has been dominated by talk of Arsenal’s need for a striker, it is suddenly in central midfield where they are most in need. The revelation in the past 24 hours that Aaron Ramsey is set to miss up to six more weeks, having suffered a reoccurrence of his thigh injury, has seemingly been enough to prod Wenger into action.
With Mathieu Flamini suspended for four matches and Jack Wilshere still ruled out and regrettably still somewhat prone to niggles at this stage of his career, it is easy to understand Wenger’s urgency. And Kallstrom should slot in well in a signing that bears some resemblance with the one that saw Mikel Arteta signed in what was perceived at the time as something of a desperate deadline-day investment in August 2011.
Kallstrom is a pure central midfielder who can do a bit of everything and is likely to slot in comfortably alongside either Arteta or Flamini when needed. Especially at age 31, he is not expected to provide the dynamism of Ramsey or Wilshere, Kallstrom is an adept passer of the ball and can be a threat on goal both from open play and set-pieces with his left foot. Perhaps most importantly for Wenger is Kallstrom’s high level of football intelligence and ability to read the game. While not a ferocious tackler by any means, that aptitude means he can be an effective thwarter of opposition attacks.
It is unlikely that Kallstrom will play a major part in the remainder of Arsenal’s season, but it is easy to imagine him coming on late in games in which the Gunners are leading and providing a steadying influence.
Having made a big impression in his early years at Djurgardens there were expectations (not least, famously, from the football management simulation game “Championship Manager,” now “Football manager”) that Kallstrom would go onto become a true global star. Things never quite materialized that way, but it has still been a reputable career for a player who has been capped by his country more than 100 times since making his debut as a teenager.
After a short spell at Rennes following his departure from Sweden, Kallstrom joined the then all-conquering Lyon team and helped them to two of their seven successive Ligue 1 titles and was a part of the side that reached the semifinals of the Champions League in 2010.
He won’t pull up any trees, he won’t be the man who tilts the Premier League title in Arsenal’s favor, but as a short-term solution to a particular deficiency, Kallstrom represents a smart piece of business.