Erling Haaland is destined to go down because the signing of the summer, having scored 25 goals – greater than the overall that won last 12 months’s Golden Boot – in only 19 Premier League games for Manchester City this season. He’s on to interrupt the record and rating 40 plus. But Oleksandr Zinchenko to Arsenal could have been a good more impactful transfer than the Norwegian’s move to the Etihad come the tip of May.
Zinchenko was sensational yet again against Manchester United last Sunday, popping up all around the pitch as an auxiliary midfielder despite starting at left-back, to assist Arsenal maintain relentless late pressure and secure a 3-2 win in stoppage time. And the Gunners even have United partly to thank for the success of Zinchenko in north London.
Arsenal were initially keen on signing Lisandro Martinez to bolster their back-line last summer. The Ajax defender after all went on to hitch United for as much as £56million after their Premier League rivals had several bids rejected by the Dutch club.
Mikel Arteta viewed the Argentine as a flexible option so as to add to his defence. Martinez has the power to play comfortably at left-back and at centre-back. But recruiting the combative defender was not a possibility after United secured an agreement, so Arsenal moved on to Zinchenko as an alternative.
And a £32m cope with City was agreed by mid-July – a move that has proven an absolute masterstroke. Though he has missed several Premier League matches as a result of injury, Zinchenko has been a large player for Arteta’s title-challenging charges – within the dressing room as much as on the pitch.
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United legend Paul Scholes said of the influential Ukrainian leader, who may also play in midfield, this week: “He’s playing it [the left-back role] fantastically well and is a giant asset to Arsenal. I’m a bit surprised Man City sold him with the massive influence he has had.
“And Man City have struggled a bit of at left-back, which is much more surprising. Normally they don’t have that big of an influence, do they?! [Left-backs]. But he has had a large influence, not only on the pitch, but off the pitch as well.”
Arteta has labelled Zinchenko’s ability to maneuver forward into midfield spaces as “an additional weapon” which helps Arsenal be “more unpredictable”. And his role was huge within the crucial late win over United – with Ian Wright telling the player afterwards: “Alex I’m so glad you’re at our club.”
Along with the standard he offers on the pitch, his mentality off it – and his experience of what it takes to win and to achieve this consistently at City – has helped turn Arsenal right into a team who imagine they’ll win the league. That much is apparent with how they perform, especially of their recent wins away at Tottenham and at home to United.
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Zinchenko is already a number one figure within the Arsenal team, and has endeared himself to fans together with his passion, productivity and overall quality. The Red Devils themselves won’t be too disenchanted with the way it all worked out, given Martinez has played a big role in their very own turnaround under Erik ten Hag.
But inadvertently, the South American moving to Old Trafford led to Arteta buying Zinchenko. And you believe you studied the Spaniard wouldn’t swap the pair now under any condition. Martinez could have had a huge impact on the Emirates too – however the Ukrainian was absolutely perfect for Arteta’s team and is proving it each week.
If Arsenal can maintain this level, and Zinchenko can be crucial in the event that they are to try this, he might join N’Golo Kante as considered one of just two outfield players ever to win back-to-back Premier League titles with different clubs.
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