28, Defender, Everton
As with all the articles I do on a player linked with Arsenal, this piece will attempt to cover a few interesting pieces of the player’s identity and biography. Over the past few weeks a number of journalists have stepped out to say that they believed Jagielka to be the primary target for Arsène Wenger rather than Gary Cahill. Wenger has made a £10m bid for the player which has been turned down, and this is the reason Jagielka will be covered in this piece.
The first thing that struck me when I heard of an Englishman who was snapping ferocious tackles in at Sheffield United under Neil Warnock was; where does his name come from? Turns out he is of Polish descent and was born Philip Nikodem Jagielka in Sale, Greater Manchester. His grandparents fled Poland after the Second World War. As a young teenager he started off as a schoolboy at Everton, before joining The Blades at 15 years of age. There his talent as a defensive midfielder, with a rocket propelled work rate and a physicality to dominate the midfield in the Championship, allowed him to make a real name for himself. A great season in 2005-06 allowed him to play a mammoth 46 games and score 8 goals. He won the Championship award for best player that season. The following year they were promoted. His year in the Premier League with United was ultimately a disappointment as they were relegated. However, his versatility lead to one of the highlights of the season. Forced to play in goal against Arsenal after Paddy Kenny was injured, they managed to secure a famous 1-0 victory. He even made an excellent late save from Robin Van Persie.
Jagielka’s life has had sadness as well. His grandfather was a potential and unproven murder victim of serial killer Harold Shipman. He said “When my grandfather died, he put his hand on my right shoulder and said, ‘I think I’ll stay here a while in case he wakes up so he doesn’t scare people. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but I do now.” Whilst recovering from a cruciate injury last year, 3 masked men from an organised criminal gaang burst into his rented £2.5m mansion with knives and threatened Jagielka. They stole valuables and a Range Rover, which was later found abandoned.
Having joined Everton, he found a gritty and ambitious Scottish manager under David Moyes prepared to support him fully and smooth his rough edges. Having moved back into centre defence he showed the grittiness of an old school tough centre defender, with the passing game to take the ball and move it forward. Moyes pushes Jagielka, not just as a footballer, as a man and leader. Moyes said in March this year that he could potentially become an England captain but that ‘he needs to drive himself on to be that person; it has to come from within.’ The undertone of that comment is that Jagielka maybe lacks the aggressive, cutting edge of John Terry or Rio Ferdinand. Moyes also said ‘Sometimes he suffers from self doubt’, whilst ‘he should be looking at himself as a future Everton captain and he agrees that he has to start being a leader.’ Interesting that Arsenal supporters point to Jagielka as the natural leader, when even his own manager says he does not (yet) have that element in his personality. I would hope Wenger is able to spend the money to buy a taller player with less injury problems, younger and better passing skills. Therefore we return to Gary Cahill. Bolton Wanderers are waiting to see if Chelsea or Manchester City make a move for him.
Everton are notoriously tough negotiators, well known for driving prices extremely high and turning a seemingly simple deal into a long running saga. Turning down £10m for a player turning 29 years of age in less than a month is brave decision, despite the fact Wenger offered £12m last season. If Everton are asking for a £15m then that is a lot of money considering he does not even meet the mandate of what Arsenal genuinely need. In short, this deal is doomed until there is an immense shift in policy from Everton to sell or Arsenal to pay substantially more. A huge, angry, commanding centre back with natural leadership skills must be the requisite qualities for the next Arsenal centre defender Wenger purchases to deal with the set piece problems we have. Jagielka could play a simple and limited centre back role alongside Vermaelen or Djourou. He would likely allow them, as the more comfortable passers to bring out the ball. However alongside Laurent Koscielny, I just do not see that pairing as having the muscularity or presence to change anything about our current spinal weakness.
Jagielka would bring other qualities if he were to sign for Arsenal. He does not have an ego (a trademark Wenger plus), has a good work rate, a positive attitude and a knack for digging deep to grind the best standards of play from his team mates. If he had a nastier side, a tendency to grip opposition players by the throat as the dark art masters from Inter Milan do at corners, I would be keener.
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