Aaron Hickey was selected by Scotland in their crunch clash against Ukraine, giving Arsenal fans a close look at the player Mikel Arteta is reportedly keen to bring to the Emirates Stadium
Arsenal fans caught their first glimpse of their prospective new signing Aaron Hickey as the Scotland defender featured against Ukraine in their 3-1 World Cup play-off defeat on Wednesday evening.
The Bologna full-back is reportedly closing in on a move to the Premier League with the Gunners leading the chase, as Mikel Arteta looks to make his first signing of the summer. Gazzetta dello Sport suggests a fee worth £ 21million is close to being agreed, with Hickey apparently keen to join the Gunners.
But the 19-year-old, who made his debut in March against Poland, had more important matters to attend to after being selected by Steve Clarke for the clash against Ukraine. Lining up as a right wing-back in the 3-4-1-2 formation, Hickey would be hoping to help the Scots seal their spot in the final to face Wales in Cardiff.
But playing against a Ukraine side fuelled by emotion and pride amid the ongoing Russian invasion of their nation, Scotland were unable to match their superior opponents. Andriy Yarmolenko put Ukraine in front in the first half after springing the offside trap and conjuring a fine lob over Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon.
Calum McGregor’s strike got them back in it, but it was too little too late for Clarke’s men, and Ukraine added a third late on to seal their fate thanks to
Shortly after the interval, Ukraine took a giant step towards victory. Oleksandr Karavayev’s cross was met by the head of Roman Yaremchuk to double the visitors’ lead and give Scotland a real mountain to climb. And Hickey stood no real chance of getting up ahead of the towering striker as the Benfica striker expertly steered his header into the far corner.
It was a difficult test for the former Hearts trainee, who was pitted against two of Ukraine’s finest on the flank against Everton full-back Mykolenko, who bombed it forward down the flank, and Zinchenko in a creative role in central midfield. The pair regularly combined to make life difficult for Hickey as he was forced to track back more often than he would have liked.
Despite a tough match, Hickey showed great endeavor in the second half as the Tartan Army chased a goal that would get them back in the game, and most of it came from his side rather than Andy Robertson’s. The youngster was relentless in his attempts to get the better of Mykolenko to find the two target men in the box, Che Adams and Lyndon Dykes, showing impressive energy and work rate.
There was a swagger in the way he hit the cross which was reminiscent of Trent Alexander-Arnold. Unfortunately, his delivery was not quite as accurate with his crosses as the Liverpool star, leaving Adams and Dykes frustrated with the service they received.
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As the game neared the end of the 90 minutes, Hickey was showing obvious signs of fatigue and that is no surprise. It has been a long campaign for the defender, having featured in 36 of Bologna’s 38 Serie A matches this season.
It was a match that underlined Hickey’s promise and also where the starlet needs to make improvements if he is to feature regularly for a team of Arsenal ‘s class.
But there is enough about the Scottish wonderkid to suggest he would be an astute signing for Arteta as the Spaniard looks to build for the future.