The Sweden international joined the Gunners on loan in January 2014 despite suffering a broken back – but he regards his time in London as a success
Kim Kallstrom has opened up on his bizarre loan spell with Arsenal, which he maintains was a success despite spending most of his time with the Gunners injured with a broken back.
Kallstrom joined Arsenal on loan from Spartak Moscow on transfer deadline day in January 2014, with the move sanctioned despite a back injury being discovered during the defensive midfielder’s medical.
The ex-Sweden international made only four appearances for Arsenal and is regularly regarded as one of the worst signings made by the club in the Premier League era – although he did help the club end their nine-year trophy drought by winning the FA Cup.
Kallstrom has revealed he suffered his injury during a winter training camp in Abu Dhabi with Spartak while training on a beach – but, despite informing the Premier League side of his back trouble, they rushed through his move regardless.
He said: “Lots of people think they know about this injury but let me explain it properly. We were training on the beach – this is so embarrassing – and it was a proper training session too, not just one for fun. I say it was a beach, it was more like concrete. Anyway, we had a game there and I fell badly on a small rock.
“I hit my back and had some pain. Obviously we were due to go back to Moscow the day after so we didn’t do any medical check-up there because it wasn’t too bad at the time. We informed Arsenal straight away that I had a problem with my back and that I had no idea what it was, so they just told me to come along anyway.
“It was a bit of a blur because the deal had to be done quickly. I came to London, we had the medical and we found out there were some problems but we arranged the deal anyway. I thought the transfer would’ve been off because I was injured but we worked out a deal between the clubs that said I could stay.
“It was really the last few minutes of the transfer window so either they signed me with a bad back, or they didn’t sign anyone because there wasn’t any time left. That’s why they took a chance on me and in the end, it worked out quite well.”
Kallstrom’s greatest contribution during his time at Arsenal was scoring a penalty during the shoot-out in their FA Cup semi-final victory over holders Wigan Athletic, as the Gunners won 4-2 on spot-kicks before going on to beat Hull City in the final.
The loanee says he felt completely relaxed about his big moment as he was not fully aware of what winning the competition would mean to Arsenal, who at the time had not won a major trophy since last lifting the FA Cup in 2005.
Kallstrom tucked away the penalty, and uses it as a reason why he was not a complete flop at Arsenal and a response to those who see him as a figure of fun at the Emirates Stadium.
He added: “At the time, I didn’t know how significant that game was because for me, Arsenal was a club that collected trophies all the time. I had the Invincibles and the Freddie Ljungberg era in my head, so I didn’t understand that there had been so much time since the last trophy. The pressure to win one was very big, so obviously all the coaches felt that but I had no knowledge of it at the time.
“I was just in the right place at the right time because I think they missed their first or second penalty and it’s much easier to take one after your opponent misses. But what I’ll always remember is walking up to that ball from the halfway line.
“People always ask me why I was smiling on the walk – apparently nobody smiles when they take that walk – but you have to understand, I was not meant to take that penalty for Arsenal at Wembley Stadium. But I did. I scored. We won.
“That penalty changed the experience for me massively. I came here, was injured and didn’t play a lot. Sure, that’s part of the game, but then when you score the penalty at least you’ve participated in some way. It was an important trophy for the club, so it was great fun for me.
“I see the fans who joke on the internet about my time here, but I think it’s quite fun. There are a lot of players who have done a lot more for Arsenal than me but then at the same time, there are a lot of players who have done a lot less, in a lot more time.
“Here, I walked in, hit the penalty, we won a trophy and then I walked out again. Who’d have thought it, the guy with the broken back?”