Jakub Kiwior’s rise from football wilderness to the top of the Premier League has almost been as quick as the club he has joined in Arsenal.
The 22-year-old has completed a switch to north London from Italian side Spezia to become the Gunners’ second signing of the window.
Kiwior, a left-sided central defender, has arrived to provide Mikel Arteta with back-up to Gabriel Magalhaes as Arsenal prepare a charge on both the Premier League and in Europe.
The Pole had started every match for Spezia this season prior to last weekend when he was at the Emirates to watch his new side beat Manchester United 3-2 alongside partner Claudia Kowalczyk, who was was crowned Queen of Germany’s Twerk Competition in 2017.
Kiwior told Arsenal.com: “I’ve always dreamt of playing in the Premier League.
“I knew it wouldn’t be easy, and if I got the chance, then I knew I’d have to make the most of it because it was one of my biggest dreams. For me, it’s the best league. I’m thrilled to be here.
” It’s huge for me that Arsenal were interested and that I’m able to be here.”
It’s not just Kiwior who is thrilled to move to Arsenal as his stats for Spezia this term prove Arteta will be just as ecstatic to have him.
Arsenal’s new No.15 boasted the most blocks and interceptions for the Little Eagles, and crucially the highest pass accuracy rate as well.
“I love passing the ball,” added Kiwior. “I like teams that move the ball and try to create chances that way. So, I’m happy that I’ve come to a team like that.”
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Kiwior will hope to have finally settled in England, the fifth country he has played in over the last six years.
Having started out in his homeland at GKS Tychy he was snapped up by Belgian giants Anderlecht as a teenager in 2016.
The club’s famed academy has produced Vincent Kompany and Romelu Lukaku while Kiwior slotted in alongside future teammate Albert Sambi Lokonga in the youth ranks.
But while Lokonga progressed to the first-team before Arsenal snapped him up, Kiwior was let go after two years without a senior appearance.
The 6’2 star suddenly found himself thrown into a relegation battle in Slovakia after signing for FK Zeleziarne Podbrezova.
It proved a reality check for Kiwior, who was unable to help prevent Podbrezova dropping from the top-flight into the second division.
Michal Hanek, Podbrezova’s assistant coach at the time, told BBC Sport: “When I think about ‘Kiwi’, I always remember doughnuts.
“He went there after our training and I asked him what he ate for lunch. He answered, ‘Doughnuts with jam’.
“That was funny and I laughed a bit, but then I explained to him as a pro you cannot eat doughnuts for lunch.
“He immediately accepted that he needed to take care of his body and eating, and always tried to learn from coaches’ advice.”
Having overhauled his diet and knuckled down in training, Kiwior began to reap the benefits of the regular minutes he was afforded in Slovakia.
MSK Zilina, one of the country’s most successful clubs who count Inter Milan’s Milan Skriniar as a former starlet, spotted Kiwior’s potential and swooped to sign him after Podbrezova’s relegation.
The move proved to Kiwior’s breakthrough as he made it into the starting line-up and soon attracted interest from Borussia Dortmund.
But it was famed Spezia talent spotter Riccardo Pecini, who helped Tottenham and Monaco sign Luka Modric and Anthony Martial, who took Kiwior to Serie A in August 2021.
“You can see that Kiwior understands how football develops,” Pecini told Polish newspaper Przegląd Sportowy last year.
“He presented himself as if he was a player brought up in the academy of Ajax or Barcelona.
“The more the technical level of the game increases, the better this boy is doing.”
In just over a year and a half, Kiwior has transformed into one the best young defenders in the Italian league.
He was even handed 21 starts in a defensive midfield role when ex-Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Thiago Motta managed Spezia, showcasing his versatility.
Yet it was on the international scene where Kiwior announced himself to the world.
He only made his senior Poland debut in June 2022 during a Nations League draw against the Netherlands.
Kiwior started all four of his country’s games at the World Cup in Qatar, testing himself against Lionel Messi as Poland reached the knockout stages for the first time since 1986 before falling to eventual finalists France.
Polish captain Robert Lewandowski said: “Listen to me, this is a real player.
“In training, it’s very difficult to see certain things. Then I saw him in the match, extraordinary. Really great potential.”
By then Arsenal had seen enough, and have moved to bring him in as a player for now rather than keeping an eye for the future.
And Kiwior himself admitted he couldn’t help but smile at the end of what has been a far from straightforward rise to the top.
He revealed: “When I saw my name on an Arsenal shirt for the first time, I just laughed!
“I was so happy to see my name on the shirt of such a huge club. For me, it’s an incredibly happy moment and the pinnacle to play for such a big club.”