If we check Oxford Dictionary in a few years’ time, we will see the transfer window showing as a synonym to Manchester City. This has been the status of Premier League champs, who this window are looking to go all out and build a complete 25-man squad full of superstar players. Already signing 2 of the best young forwards in Haaland and Alvarez, City now looks to fix their weak spots in defence and midfield. Reports suggest that Man City have agreed personal terms with Leeds United’s Kalvin-Phillips and Brighton’s Marc Cucurella.
With the incoming players being a midfielder and a left-back, it seems Oleksandr Zinchenko’s chance to claim first-team minutes are under threat and adding to Arsenal’s interest in Ukraine international, all stars and constellations point towards a potential transfer away from Etihad.
WHY ZINCHENKO CAN BE CONSIDERING MOVING TO OTHER CLUBS?
The answer is simple, PLAYTIME. In order to establish himself as a true football star, Zinchenko needs ample of minutes on the football pitch. This season due to varying reasons, Oleksandr Zinchenko got a chance in just 15 PL games while he turned out on Champions League nights just 8 times.
Exploits of Joao Cancelo on the left flank gave Guardiola a tactical edge, combining with Ake’s defensive stability in the Portuguese’s absence kept Zinchenko’s chances hard to come by. Whenever turned out, he did a commendable job and hardly put a foot wrong but, considering the situation in Ukraine; our beloved ever-smiling Zinny had a tough season emotionally.
Now that his former coach Mikel Arteta is willing to reunite again, Arsenal are looking to sign Zinchenko and play him in midfield (his preferred position), something he will find hard to come by at the Etihad, it looks like a promising move for Zinchenko to excel in his career.
Now let us discuss the main topic, Why Manchester City should keep hold of Zinchenko despite the exit rumours;
ONE OF THE BEST TECHNICAL PLAYERS IN MANCHESTER CITY
It’s a shocker for some people to read the heading but hear me out! Zinchenko is highly rated among his peers and is truly one of the best technical players at Manchester City.
People would argue that he doesn’t possess any dribbling abilities like that of Grealish and Foden, nor does he provide extra-ordinary passes like De Bruyne and neither does he hop into spaces like David Silva used to do. So how could he be termed as one of the best?
The answer is, that he knows what passes he should supply in what situations. His decision-making while in possession is praiseworthy. Players like Cancelo opt going for a shot while Ake looks for an easy side pass, Zinchenko on the other hand will stretch the play by a beautiful switch pass. Such passes open ups the play where players like Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden get into favorable positions.
Zinchenko reads the game very well. His movement for Ederson’s long pass against PSG is a piece of perfect evidence for that.
Look at Zinchenko’s run, for a reminder he is a fullback. Fullbacks are supposed to be in their box when the play starts. Especially in Pep’s system where he prefers to play the ball from the back. Here Zinchenko read the situation perfectly well and chose to make a risky run. This risk resulted in one of the cleanest chances for Manchester City in that game.
Even Kyle Walker in an interview acknowledged Zinchenko’s technical superiority by saying, “He’s incredible… he’s incredible,” Walker said of Zinchenko. “Two touches, head tennis, he’s so good, so so good. But then you’re leaving out the likes of [Kevin] De Bruyne, Phil Foden, [Jack] Grealish, [Joao] Cancelo. But they don’t come close to those three(Bernardo, Mahrez and Zinchenko).”
If Kyle Walker approves, who are we?
Man City boast a plethora of specialists on their roster. They also have talented and versatile players in Cancelo, Foden, Bernardo and Ake. But, Zinchenko among them is a special mention. Olek Zinchenko started his career as a forward. He was able to play on either flank and as a false 9. Discovering the uniqueness in Zinchenko’s reading and vision, his coach started playing him as a no. 10. Until his move to Manchester City, Zinchenko was an attacking midfielder.
Even to this day, he plays for Ukraine as an attacking midfielder. Ukraine boss Shevchenko used to prefer him in midfield. Zinchenko used to excel at this role and found the goal or assists numerous times. In World Cup qualifiers, Zinchenko has 3 G/A in 7 appearances. His crucial goal involvement got Ukraine to their first-ever quarter-final in EUROS.
Pep Guardiola saw Zinchenko’s ability to make runs and passes from wide and experimented him as the left-back. With his calmness on the ball and intelligence, while picking right passes, this experiment worked and Guardiola has seen Zinchenko as a go-to player for emergency left-back situations.
Zinchenko last appeared in midfield for Manchester City was in a UCL group stage fixture against PSG. In this game, he efficiently switched roles with Cancelo and added extra creativity for Manchester City. Hey Pep, if you are reading this; you can try this for next season…
Apart from left-back and central mid, Zinchenko has been deployed as a left midfielder and defensive midfielder.
Oleksandr Zinchenko’s mentality is the main reason he has succeeded at Manchester City so far. Well, not only Manchester City, Zinchenko’s mentality has made him what he is today. When we talk of mentality, likes of Ronaldo and Mane make the list of players who are known for their strong mentality and ability to come out on top of tough times. Zinchenko too is not a stranger to such tough situations.
Left being isolated in his youth side, growing up in war-zoned Ukraine cities and being made to train with the B squad at PSV, Zinchenko has faced numerous challenges on his way to see his name on Manchester City’s starting XI in UCL Final.
Tougher times have made Zinchenko a tough person. When Manchester City received offers from Wolves and Napoli in 2019, Zinchenko chose to stay at the club and fight for his place. His decision and fighting spirit earned him over 20 league appearances that season and his involvement from a left-back was crucial for Manchester City’s PL title that season.
Similarly, he has came tightly in defining and important stages late in the seasons. On their route to the UCL final, Zinchenko was their unsung hero against PSG.
Although this season he was not emotionally in place, Zinchenko still emerged as a reliable option at the back when Manchester City were facing an injury crisis. In the PL winning game against Aston Villa, Zinchenko proved why he still is an important asset for Pep Guardiola by getting an important assist.
STATUS IN LOCKER ROOM
Zinchenko is loved and respected in Man City’s locker room. He has strong chemistry with Ederson and all the defenders in City’s squad. The block against PSG and the celebration which followed will tell you everything about Zinchenko and his bond with other City players.
On-pitch performances are the result of the players’ actions off-pitch. Zinchenko has extremely good relations with Guardiola (despite Lada criticizing Guardiola for unusual tactics against Lyon). Along with defenders, City’s former captains Kompany and Fernandinho rated Zinchenko as a future locker room leader. His banter-rich friendship with Kevin De Bruyne has often resulted in social media accounts labelling him as De Bruyne’s prodigal son.
Such respect is really difficult to earn. This player has never seen his name in any controversies and keeps on working hard in training sessions which has kept him in Pep’s good books. Zinchenko is an example youth players should look up to learn professionalism and the importance of perseverance.
All these factors didn’t include the way Zinchenko has grown at Manchester City. His presence in the squad has prevented Guardiola from making big money signing at LB so far. Once termed as a liability in defence, Zinchenko has went on to be a decently reliable player at left-back. He has worked a lot on his defensive side and has made praiseworthy improvements in tackling, running and marking. Zinchenko despite his small stature has won various aerial duels.
While he may have indirectly caused Man City to concede a few goals here and there, this doesn’t prove that Zinchenko is not reliable. Every player is prone to mistakes some or the other time and Zinchenko like any other human being has some flaws in him. All he needs right now is support from fans, peers and his manager. He has always played for the badge and worked hard on the training ground. Without demanding much from the manager, Zinchenko if provided with enough minutes could be a very good asset for Pep’s City for now as well as a considerable future.