Arsenal have been linked with Manchester City utility man Oleksandr Zinchenko, who spent the season on the fringes but remains a high-quality player in many positions
Mikel Arteta is closer to his dream Arsenal set-up as he targets Manchester City star Oleksandr Zinchenko.
The Gunners have been linked to the 25-year-old, who is set to leave the Etihad this summer to find a new challenge. Zinchenko has been on the fringes of Pep Guardiola’s side this season, but that is not necessarily a knock on his ability due to the star-studded options at City’s disposal.
Most players would struggle to displace Kyle Walker and Joao Cancelo, who are arguably two of the best full-backs in the world. Zinchenko can also play in midfield, something he does regularly for Ukraine, but those opportunities are even more rare at City with the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Rodri and Bernardo Silva ahead of him.
Zinchenko’s versatility is a big reason why Arteta has targeted him this summer, given Kieran Tierney’s injury troubles at left-back and Arsenal’s lack of depth in the middle of the park. The Gunners boss made it clear almost two years ago that his preferred tactical set-up is a 4-3-3 but he has struggled to implement it due to the limited options available to him.
“We want to move to a 4-3-3,” the Spaniard said. “But for that, you need a lot of specificity in every position but now in five or six positions, we do not have it.”
Zinchenko is comfortable in either position due to how assured he is on the ball and his technical abilities are often overlooked since he is not a regular in City’s starting XI. But his teammates are well aware of how good he is, epitomised by the fact Walker rates him technically higher than Kevin De Bruyne.
Speaking about the most technically gifted players in the City squad, Walker admitted that the Ukraine international is up there among the very best. “Not in any order, because I wouldn’t want to put them in any order, my top three are Zinchenko, [Riyad] Mahrez, [Bernardo] Silva, ”the England international said.
“He’s incredible, incredible. Two touches, head tennis, he’s incredible. So good, so, so good. And then you’re leaving the likes of De Bruyne out, Phil Foden, Cancelo. But they do not come close to those three. “
Arteta has reportedly promised Zinchenko a place in Arsenal’s midfield as a number eight, a role that Granit Xhaka played at times last season. The Swiss international typically sits at the base of the midfield but was shifted around the center of the park as Thomas Partey struggled with an injury towards the end of the campaign.
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Xhaka deserves a lot of credit for how he has handled being played out of position and certainly gives Arteta more options in the future, but he wants to have his players in their best positions, if possible.
Arteta thinks it can be a good thing for players to go out of their comfort zone, however, suggesting that he wouldn’t be scared to play Zinchenko in midfield, a position he has rarely occupied in the Premier League.
“I wouldn’t say that it would make him comfortable but sometimes you have to take players from their comfort zone and open a different door to explore how the team will react, what the opposition will do when you do certain things,” the Spaniard said. “Then it’s more unpredictable because if not it’s pretty easy to prepare against the same opposition.”
The arrival of Zinchenko this summer would certainly help Arteta inch closer to his dream set-up for Arsenal.