Mykhailo Mudryk, the 22-year-old Ukrainian winger, was the subject of a fierce tug-of-war between Chelsea and Arsenal during the January transfer window. Chelsea eventually won the battle by meeting Shakhtar Donetsk’s £89 million demand for a player with little more than a season of senior football under his belt. However, since joining Chelsea, Mudryk has failed to impress, and Arsenal fans are breathing a sigh of relief that they have Bukayo Saka instead. Of the seven appearances he has made for his new club, he has finished on the winning side just once.
Mudryk’s lacklustre performance has been a disappointment to many, including coach Ruslan Rotan, who only last week had called him “a diamond to be cherished.” The former head of the Shakhtar academy, Andres Carrasco Carrillo, had even gone as far as to describe Mudryk as ‘a genius’ in the match day programme. However, Mudryk’s performance at Wembley was far from memorable. He was no worse than most of his teammates and marginally better than quite a few of them. However, it still wasn’t enough to spare him the embarrassment of being hooked on the hour.
Ukraine was so far below England’s level that it was almost impossible for anyone in yellow to shine. Mudryk had little opportunity to make an impact. Maybe it was the emotion of the occasion after receiving the kind of welcome to Wembley never before afforded to a visiting team. And draped in the Ukrainian flag as he belted out the national anthem, Mudryk certainly looked as though he meant business in his country’s opening European Championship qualifier. But twice in the space of a minute he was beaten to a through ball by the pace of Kyle Walker.
Mudryk’s frustration was evident in first-half stoppage time when he tried to launch a kamikaze charge right through the heart of the England defence before being stopped dead in his tracks by Harry Kane tracking all the way back to make a tackle. No-one doubts that there is a real talent waiting to sparkle, it’s just taking longer to reach the surface than most of us were expecting.
Two months ago, the Ukrainian Player of the Year had set his heart on becoming Saka’s Arsenal teammate. He had even admitted in an interview with Oleksandr Zinchenko’s wife that he was dreaming of a move to the Emirates. But that was before the League leaders were gazumped by Todd Boehly’s Chelsea’s billions, and he suddenly found himself drifting along in mid-table and unsure of his place in Graham Potter’s pecking order. Now he is playing catch-up with that massive price tag weighing him down while having to deal with the disappointment of another no-show.
In conclusion, Mudryk has not set English football alight so far, and he has failed to impress since joining Chelsea. Arsenal fans are relieved they have Bukayo Saka instead. Mudryk has a lot to prove, and there is no doubt that there is a real talent waiting to sparkle. However, it is taking longer to reach the surface than most of us were expecting.