Oleksandr Zinchenko, the summer recruit from Manchester City, has been a crucial player for Arsenal this season. He has been an essential component in a side that has married steel with creative flair, which had been absent from Mikel Arteta’s tenure prior to this season. Zinchenko’s technical ability and eagerness to dictate play from his customary left-back position has been central to the rapid progress Arsenal have made since his arrival.
Zinchenko has been instrumental in Arsenal’s march towards their first Premier League title in almost 20 years. The Gunners appeared set to break their transfer record in an attempt to secure the services of one of European football’s most highly-rated young forwards, Mykhailo Mudryk. Mudryk had made no secret of his desire to join the Premier League leaders with a series of less than cryptic social media posts, while he had told Zinchenko’s wife, journalist Vlada Sedan, in a revealing interview that he had dreamed of a move to north London.
As events transpired, Arsenal were unable to agree a fee with Shakhtar Donetsk, and their refusal to meet the Ukrainain club’s valuation allowed Chelsea an opportunity to swoop. With Chelsea happy to cede to Skakhtar’s demands, Mudryk found himself with no option but to sign for Chelsea instead, much to Zinchenko’s disappointment.
Zinchenko insists he holds no grudge against Mudryk after his Ukraine international teammate snubbed a January move to Arsenal. He told the Daily Mail: “I said to him: ‘It’s gone already, it doesn’t matter what you wanted, what the other guys wanted’. Now you’re a Chelsea player, you signed a long-term contract and you have only one option, only one way: direct and forward.”
Arsenal reacted to Mudryk’s snub by recruiting Leandro Trossard instead, a decision which has reaped instant dividends. However, the 22-year-old has found adapting to the Premier League a far from straightforward task. After an eye-catching debut against Liverpool, his subsequent six appearances have yielded a solitary assist while he has struggled to nail down a place in Graham Potter’s constantly changing first XI.
Zinchenko credits Arteta, who he worked with at City, for helping shape his career. “I remember when Mikel was leaving City (in 2019),” Zinchenko said. “I didn’t hold my emotions. I couldn’t because this guy was so special to me. He taught me a lot. As a human being, he was incredible and the way he was working with us young players after every single training session, the advice he was giving everyone, was something incredibly important for me.”
Asked what makes Arteta so special, he added: “The way he sees football – his vision, his character, his mentality. He’s a winner and everyone likes to win… as simple as that. I said to my circle: ‘If one day I’m going to leave City and I’m going to stay in the Premier League, it will be only one manager: Mikel Arteta.’ That’s what I said to him when he called me for the first time in that transfer window.”
Zinchenko and Arsenal continue to go from strength to strength as they progress with their relentless march towards a first Premier League title in approaching 20 years.