After signing Gabriel Jesus from Manchester City, Arsenal are going back to the well with their pursuit of Oleksandr Zinchenko. The Ukrainian international will cost £30 million, not including add-ons, and the transfer has many Arsenal fans wondering what to expect from the Ukrainian.
Earlier in his career, ZInchenko made a name for himself as an attacking midfielder, and impressing in that role almost earnt him a move to Arsenal, but a deal couldn’t be done, instead finding himself at Manchester City, under the tutelage of Pep Guardiola. Like many players who find themselves in that situation, Zinchenko was reimagined.
Under Guardiola, Zinchenko has played as a combination of left-back and midfielder, occupying a more inverted role that isn’t uncommon for a full-back in a Guardiola side. With Arteta generally playing a similar style of football, it will be interesting to see how Zinchenko, with his versatile profile, fits into Arsenal’s side.
Fans are already speculating about the tactical possibilities and, with Arsenal having had little margin for error when they lost a player last season, this signing is sure to boost their betting exchange odds. Zinchenko could feature as an option at left-back.
Kieran Tierney is a favourite of Arteta’s, but his injury history means that a solid alternative is required and, with Tierney being a more traditional full-back, an alternative like Zinchenko would be a massive boost, allowing Arteta to vary how the left side of his team functions.
An alternative would involve fielding Zinchenko in midfield. Arsenal tend to play with three in the centre of the park; a holding midfielder who remains deep, usually Thomas Partey, and two number eights. One, usually Martin Ødegaard, plays as more of a number 10, while the other, mostly Granit Xhaka last season, stays deeper when the team don’t have the ball, but then moves up alongside Ødegaard when pressing aggressively, or when the team is attacking.
The role seems a natural fit for Zinchenko. Now a well-rounded, disciplined midfielder, capable of making a difference in attack, but also executing a more conservative role when required, he stands out as the best alternative to Granit Xhaka’s current role in the Arsenal squad.
In truth, the most likely outcome is that Zinchenko will spend time in both roles — sometimes playing a more inverted role as a full-back, allowing the wide attacker to provide width and sometimes playing a role as a supporting midfielder, linking defence and attack while giving the full-back freedom to provide width.
The right sided trio of full-back, midfielder, and attacker — generally Tomiyasu, Ødegaard, and Saka — was a relative strength for Arsenal last season, but the same wasn’t always true of the trio on the left. With players coming in and out of the team, there was no combination of players that seemed to naturally fit together for a consistent spell while maintaining the positioning that Arteta likes from his team.
That being the case, Zinchenko’s signing makes sense. Beyond simply his ability as a footballer, his positional versatility and clarity of role will give Arteta many more options when it comes to setting up that area of his side. Versatility on the pitch has been something of a theme for Arsenal, with midfield arrival Fábio Vieira able to play in a variety of positions, while Gabriel Jesus is also comfortable playing anywhere in the attack.
A more versatile, flexible Arsenal is likely an important target for Arteta. Last season, every time the Gunners lost a player, it took them a long time to adapt, and having the personnel to make changes on the fly will greatly improve Arsenal’s chances of success. No transfer embodies this focus more than Oleksandr Zinchenko.