Oleksandr Zinchenko put in a fine individual performance as Arsenal breezed past Chelsea 4-0 in a pre-season friendly at the weekend.
THE LOWDOWN: EARLY DEBUT
Arsenal fans did not need to wait long for Oleksandr Zinchenko to show what he is all about. Barely days after his official announcement, the Ukrainian made a stellar first impression in the club’s 4-0 demolition of Chelsea at the weekend.
With Kieran Tierney still yet to return from injury, Zinchenko filled in at left-back in the opening 45 minutes against Chelsea and did a tidy job in a make-shift back four for the Gunners.
Arsenal opened the scoring just after 15 minutes, with Gabriel Jesus finishing a perfectly weighted lob over Edouard Mendy to make it four pre-season goals so far. Martin Odegaard, Bukayo Saka and Albert Sambi Lakonga all grabbed goals of their own to make it a comprehensive 4-0 win for Mikel Arteta’s men and five wins from five in pre-season.
Zinchenko played the first 45 minutes and was taken off for Nuno Tavares at half-time. Regardless, his brief outing was enough to get fans excited about the 25-year-old.
He had a few standout moments to gloss about but his best spell came in the 9th minute where he placed a brilliant cross that sailed in perfectly into the path of Saka. That could have easily led to the first goal on another occasion.
It is rather early days but the first signs from Zincenko are looking positive and hopefully there’s more to come.
THE LATEST: A TIDY PERFORMER
Zinchenko might have just joined Arsenal but already looked at home in his new colours and seemed like he fit in with the club’s style in no time.
Mikel Arteta made sure to praise the Ukrainian post-match, saying the 25-year-old understands the process.
The Spaniard said to the club’s website: “He was desperate to play and I knew that. It was a maximum 45 minutes but you could see straight away he was comfortable. He understands everything that I want, he understands the process and I thought he had a really good game.”
THE VERDICT: PROPER COMPETITION AND QUALITY
Much has been made over the player’s preferred position and more importantly, where he would play for Arsenal. Zinchenko’s former boss in Pep Guardiola claims the player’s best and most natural position is in midfield – where he features regularly for the Ukraine national team, leading to claims that he could rival Granit Xhaka for a midfield role.
However, Mikel Arteta has described the 25-year-old as a left-back and the early signs indicate that we will see more of him in that position for Arsenal. While he is seen as a ‘backup’ option to Kieran Tierney in that role, the Scotsman recurring fitness issues could see him eventually lose his first team spot to a more fit, technical and versatile Zinchenko.
However it may be, Zinchenko will provide Tierney with proper competition and the battle to stake a first-team spot will be rather interesting to watch.