Manchester City vs. Arsenal: Oleksandr Zinchenko is making his former club pay for their generosity

It may yet be the most telling mistake Manchester City have done in recent seasons. The moments that cost them an English League Three Peat – as big a sign of greatness as any in this country – could have come before a ball was kicked when they sold first Gabriel Jesus and then Oleksandr Zinchenko to Arsenal. Even the Gunners’ own sales of Ashley Cole, Emmanuel Adebayor and Robin van Persie don’t compare to an act of self-sabotage; Arsenal haven’t forged contenders with the sales and they don’t have a big handicap challenge. They have a stadium to finance. Pep Guardiola has no such concerns in sending two squad players to north London. It was the move the players wanted and the Premier League champions wanted to do right by them.

City did not see the Arsenal emerging, the one they will face first in Friday’s FA Cup fourth-round tie, only a warmup act to the title showdown that their meeting on February 15 could still be. If they did, the whims of their players would have counted for quite a bit less. In their defense, neither do some of Zinchenko’s new teammates.

Also Read :  Witness: Bribes helped Fox execs get soccer TV rights

“To be honest, when I just arrived, the quality I saw… Of course I knew the Arsenal team, I knew all of them before, but after I realized on the field we have everything to achieve great things,” Zinchenko said. After Sunday’s 3-2 win over Manchester United. “I started talking in the dressing room, saying, boys, forget the three three or whatever, you have to think about the title. Some of them laughed but nobody is laughing now.”

CBS Sports has the daily soccer podcast for you, covering everything you need to know about the beautiful game. Make sure to give House of Champions a follow for coverage of the biggest games, stories, transfer news with Fabrizio Romano and everything else happening in the world’s most popular sport.

This is not entirely the case. What other reaction could Arsenal supporters have to rent a season straight out of their dreams but jubilant laughter? There were those around the club who feared a hangover after the way Arteta’s side let a surprise top-four finish escape their grasp in the closing weeks of last season. Instead, Jesus and Zinchenko brought with them a psychological shift even when they were not playing.

Also Read :  Transfer Deadline Day winners, losers: Chelsea land Enzo Fernandez, PSG and Ziyech fail, Arsenal get Jorginho

Arsenal could have coped quite adequately on the field without Jesus thanks to the impressive form of Eddie Nketiah But their third captain still has an impact in the dressing room.

“He was incredible with the boys, the staff and everybody around the club,” Arteta said in his press conference. “His energy and how positive he is for the boys – he always gives them advice and is always there for them. He was great.”

The same is with Zinchenko. He may not be a formal part of Arteta’s leadership triumvirate – captain Martin Odegaard, Granit Xhaka and Jesus – but he could also be. He has brought a force of personality to Arsenal which is reflected in pre-match huddles and warmups, where he will be one of the most vocal players. For some, moving from perennial Champions League contenders to a club that hasn’t even played in Europe’s top tier since 2017 may not be ideal, but the Ukraine captain has relished the chance to build a contender. A boy gunner, he asked for photos with “Mr Arsenal” Tony Adams and feels like he has found another family in North London.

Also Read :  USA vs. Iran highlights: Pulisic puts Americans through to Round of 16

All of this would count for very little if his impact on the pitch hadn’t been so transformative. It is interesting to think that Zinchenko was not Arsenal’s first choice when they looked to strengthen the left-back last summer. They envisioned Lisandro Martinez playing a more orthodox inverted role before being priced out by Manchester United. What they got instead was a player whose touch map is Arsene Wenger’s wish for football to become art come true. What is this if not a pointillist masterpiece?

Take a look:

Oleksandr Zinchenko’s touch map in Premier League matches this season

Twenty 3

It was a rather rare occasion this season where Arsenal chased a game. When they do, Tsinchenko comes to the fore. No one averages more passes when the Gunners are drawing and trailing than their nominal left-back, who is at his most free to wonder from his nominal position in possession. Every attacking move seems to cycle through the 26-year-old, as the graphic below indicates.

Arsenal’s passing net when they are drawing or trailing in a Premier League game this season. Note how many arrows lead to the Zinchenko in left-back.

Twenty 3

It would be harsh to say that City made a mistake in letting Zinchenko go. He only started 10 Premier League games for Guardiola’s side last season, wanting to move on and recoup £35m for them. But it may not be unreasonable to note that they miss him as Joao Cancelo struggles for form. Nathan Ake has won plenty of praise from his manager for stepping in at left-back, but Guardiola tends to couch that by acknowledging that the Dutchman is no left-back. on the opposite side, Rico Lewis Is performing adeptly in an inverted role, but it would certainly help if a veteran of four title wins is on hand to steady the ship.

Meanwhile, Guardiola seems only to want to heap praise on both his former players and Arteta, his one-time assistant at the Etihad Stadium.

“Olex and Gabriel have been amazing with us,” he said before Friday’s cup tie. “I have incredible respect for them as a person and then as football players. Obviously, we want to beat them. But with all the success they’ve had, their families, well, I’m more than delighted. If it happened, it’s because The players and both clubs agreed with this.

“Many times Oleks could have left but he said, ‘No, no, I want to stay, I want to stay,’ and he stayed. Gabriel, the same. They have been here for a lot of years and they need a new Challenge. Arsenal wanted them and it happened in a natural way, so if it goes well for them, congratulations.”

It is easy to say that now when all that is at stake is a place in the fifth round of the FA Cup. One wonders if Guardiola could be so happy for his former charges if their decisive role continues in the Premier League clash that looms large on the horizon.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Related Articles

Back to top button