Arsen Zakharyan is a name that Chelsea supporters will hear a lot more of in the future. The Russian star had agreed to join the Blues this summer, but his deal fell through owing to “for a number of technical reasons beyond our control,” according to his club Dynamo Moscow. But who exactly is he?
Chelsea are now fully in a transition period. It’s a bit weird that the team which went on to conquer ‘the world’ (Winning the Club World Cup) is now going through this period. The club has been in a volatile phase for the past nine months. The conflict between Russia and Ukraine forced the unexpected exit of owner Roman Abramovich and Todd Boehly & Clearlake Capital are new owners of the club. New owners mean new people in the building and old ones have to bid adieu.
Following numerous changes in the hierarchy of the club, the club’s transfer activities were also delayed, which meant missing out on numerous targets. All these situations plus various other reasons resulted in the unexpected sacking of Thomas Tuchel and now Graham Potter is now at the hotseat of Stamford Bridge.
The new regime is focusing on recruitment through data analytics which has led to the club poaching numerous young prospects from England and other clubs across the world. Omari Hutchinson was bought in from Arsenal, Gabriel Slonina from Chicago Fire, Carney Chukwuemeka from Aston Villa, Cesare Casadei from Inter Milan along with Zak Sturge and Tyler Dibling and now a new target is insights for the club: Arsen Zakharyan.
Who is Arsen Zakharyan?
Arsen Zakharyan was born in Samara, Russia into an ethnic Armenian household. His parents had to take refuge in Russia after the Nagorno-Karabakh war. Zakharyan began playing football at the young age of five joining the local club Krylia Sovetov Samara in 2008 and played there for eight years until transferring to the Konoplyov football academy in 2016.
Arsen joined Dynamo Moscow’s academy after spending just one year at the Konoplyov football academy which is famous for producing the Black Spider Lev Yashin, the only goalkeeper to win the prestigious Ballon d’Or. Since then Fedor Smolov, Aleksandr Kokorin and Roman Zobnin all have come out of the academy and went on to represent Russia at the World Cup.
Arsen impressed coach Sandro Schwarz while playing for the club’s youth squad, earning him a spot in the first team. Zakharyan made his debut in the Russian Premier League coming on as a substitute against FC Tambov on the 1st of November 2020. He scored his first goal in a 2–1 away win against FC Akhmat Grozny on 28 February 2021 which was also his first start of his professional career. This meant he became the third-youngest Dynamo player to score a goal in the RPL, after Aleksandr Kokorin and Pyotr Nemov.
His impressive form earned him a senior call for his national side when the preliminary squads for UEFA EURO 2020 were announced but unfortunately, he was unable to participate due to a tonsillitis infection in camp. He eventually made his debut in a 2022 World Cup qualifier against Croatia, starting the game and as a result, he became the youngest outfield player in Russian national team history, aged 18 years, 3 months and 6 days, overtaking Alan Dzagoev.
Since joining the senior squad, he has scored three goals and provided three assists in just 13 games in the 2020/21 season. He continued his impressive play with 7 goals and 6 assists in 28 games for the 21/22 season.
Since his arrival to the senior team, he has been tearing up the Russian Premier League. He scored three and assisted a further three in just 13 appearances in the 20/21 season. Zakharyan continued his exploits with 7 goals and 6 assists in 28 games for the 21/22 season. He has once again gotten off to a great start this season, tallying a goal and two assists thus far.
STYLE OF PLAY
Zakharyan has been mostly deployed as a central midfielder or as a left winger by former head coach Sandro Schwarz. He has played much deeper at youth levels but seems to have found a home in the number eight slot now which probably he should continue to play at. He doesn’t have a lot of pace, but he can make up for it with his understanding of the game.
His ability to pass or sprint with the ball at his feet makes him a hazardous proposition for opposing players who have to choose between marking him and sticking with him. Even as a wide left forward, he constantly makes runs inside, allowing full-backs to overlap and drawing a lot of opposing numbers towards him, allowing the rest of his team’s attacking players to operate with more room in the final third. Also, he possesses a good end product employing this approach, as evidenced by Russia’s third goal scored by Zakharyan in the u-21 EUROS in March 2021.
He is incredibly helpful all throughout the games. When opposition and even his own teammates are tired, Arsen still continues to pull off hard sprints and bursts of energy to run into space or execute counterattacks. Due to his excellent spatial awareness, he finds space between the lines with ease and constantly looks to do so to receive the ball. He also has the knack of going for the glory goals and to be fair he manages to hit quite a few in the RPL.
As with any footballer, Arsen does have his fair share of limitations. Despite being a physical specimen standing at 5ft 11in, he is not a great header of the ball and does contest well when the ball is in the air winning just 20% of the aerial duels he contests. Also, he does fair well in defending for his side. Maybe that is something a manager like Potter can work out of him.
A BIG TALENT WITH AN EVEN HIGHER CEILING
At nineteen, Zakharyan is already a shining light in men’s football. He is already gunning at a rate of 0.47 goal involvements per game in his breakthrough season in the Russian Premier League. But he is still raw with a sky-high ceiling and maybe it’s time to take those next steps.
Now is that progression going to be continued at Chelsea? It’s a tough answer to give right now but the signs are looking very positive for any young player willing to come to the two-time UEFA Champions League winners. Boehly seems to be planning a team which will compete not only for now but for the next seven years or more and all his decisions seem to point to that with a manager who is known across the league in developing young talents and extracting the maximum out of their potential.