Saturday, May 25, 2024

“He’s back on it” – Arteta defends Zinchenko importance

Mikel Arteta says Oleksandr Zinchenko is “back on it” following recent fitness struggles and reiterated the Ukrainian’s importance to the squad.

Signed from Manchester City ahead of the 22/23 campaign, the 27-year-old proved integral to the development of a more flexible playing style at the Emirates last season; his regular roving from left-back into midfield, combined with his quality on the ball, allowing Arsenal to push more players into the final third.

When he wasn’t available, mostly due to a persistent calf issue, the Gunners struggled to replicate his influence.

This season, with Zinchenko again hampered by injury, Mikel Arteta has developed alternative solutions without sacrificing any fluidity. In recent months, Jakub Kiwior has held his own as a defence-first left-back while Jorginho, Declan Rice and Martin Odegaard have all variously taken on the role of metronome.

All the same, as was the case against Bayern Munich, Zinchenko’s derring-do continues to be a very useful weapon. Off the bench for the second half on Tuesday, he was typically influential as the Gunners secured a creditable 2-2 draw.

“He’s very important,” said Arteta ahead of Sunday’s clash with Aston Villa.

“You have to ask the players to play in their strengths. I think Alex has got the personality to play in any game, under any condition, being himself. That’s a big thing to have.

“Yeah, he has some difficulties, especially with injuries, to find the rhythm and to find the consistency and now he’s back on it, he’s got a few games under his belt, he’s playing better and better and he’s a really, really important player for us.”

While some Arsenal supporters remain unconvinced by Zinchenko’s defensive output – the Zinchenko ‘tax’ dictates he’s a weak link in one-on-ones versus pace – you sense Arteta’s squad is better balanced to make use of his experience during the run-in, when and if the situation demands it.

What happens next season is anyone’s guess. As things stand Arsenal have the aforementioned Kiwior, as well as Takehiro Tomiyasu, Jurrien Timber and on loan Kieran Tierney as options at left-back. Despite a plethora of options, you sense it’s a position the manager will still look to strengthen, if the right candidate is available.

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C.B.

Not sure LB needs strengthening given our choices there. Zinny is a good option there for parts of matches or against the right opposition. Once Timber is back plus Tomi and Kiwior available I reckon other positions could do with more support.

Hope Gabi M in particular is fit for the rest of the season.

Gooney Tunes

Which Gabi M? 😅

Heavenly Chapecoense

Which Gabi Ma?

catbiscuits

It’s the only position where we don’t have a specialist without long-term fitness issues. ACL-knack (Timber) often has long-term implications, and Zinchenko and Tomi usually miss about 40% of games and take time to get up to speed again. Kiwior did a decent job but he’s an emergency option for that role. If we’re being ruthless it’s one of three positions we should be looking to upgrade the first XI (along with Rice’s partner and CF; you could argue LW too, but shifting Jesus there to compete with Martinelli seems the better option). Of course Timber looked great for a… Read more »

Heavenly Chapecoense

I still maintain I would beat Zinchenko in a one-on-one. Zinchenko against a keyboard football genius at Wembley for a charity, I am ready for.

Ebo

Sometimes you do have to gamble in football. We’ve invested 40 million in Timber, 20 million in Kiwior, similar in Tomi and Zinchenko (was it 35mil for Zinny?) but then you’ll go and buy another LB to hopefully be your first choice rendering at least 2 (if not 3) of these 4 bit part players at most, meaning they will leave us the following summer and not for a good price because their value will be shot to pieces. Timber looks like he could have the talent to be one of the best fullbacks in football, but how could he… Read more »

Spanish Gooner

Both Zinchenko and Martinelli have dropped off compared to last season and I think the elephant in the room is LCM, which should be our main focus in the transger window. Jorginho has been very neat and tidy there and Havertz certainly can offer something in certain games, but neither are the Box to Box defensive monster that was Xhaka last season and that has impacted LB and LW. I assume a big part of that is Partey’s injury, meaning he couldn’t play #5 with Rice in the Xhaka role in any games. I’m confident that we’ll find the right… Read more »

Dr. Gooner

I agree with you that that remains the greatest area of uncertainty. Think you over index Granit Xhaka in that role last season. He was unexpectedly much better in that role than we thought, but that was most certainly a stop gap solution. My belief is that initially Fabio Vieira and subsequently Kai Havertz were indexed as potential solutions there, the former as a bit of a flier and the latter as more of a sure thing. But it became clear that Havertz was a limited player in the buildup and thus poorly suited to central midfield. In him we… Read more »

Dr. Gooner

I want to be clear that we are talking about margins of improvement here that are the concerns of elite clubs because that’s what Arsenal are at this point. This is one area for growth we can target

I miss santi cazorla

Zinchenko should be used as 8 and rice shifted to 6 and tomi at LB. Otherwise start TP and rice in the middle and zinchenko at LB

Daveo

Yeah this is something I’ve thought of and mentioned too. Of timber becomes what we all hope, I think this opens up opportunity for zinny to rotate and play the #8. I think he’d be killer there. Despite what many think Zinny is actually a good (team) defender and in the press because he’s so tactically smart, but he’s just not the best isolated in 1v1s. His skills at team defense would fit so well at #8. Anyone thinking zinny’s Arsenal career is over is nuts. He’s SO valuable to this team.

Ebo

I would love to see that too. But I think what’s standing in the way of that is Arteta wants a big physical midfield? Then again he’s tried Vieira and Trossard in that role… reckon Zinny is much more suited to it than either of those two, or Havertz to be honest.

A Different George

I think the point of an inverted fullback is to give a team more control in the centre of the pitch. It’s having the *extra* player that makes the difference. I don’t think it’s an accident that Arteta experimented with using Partey as an inverted right back early in the season.

Ebo

Sure but at the point where you’re using Kiwior there *not* in that way and still running teams over, maybe it’s not so bad to have someone at the 8 who can give us that control? Or is that too simple of a solution? I’m definitely not smarter than Arteta but I’d love to see it at least once before we cross it off.

Dr. Gooner

I’m not sure why Arteta hasn’t tried him there. It makes all the sense, except if he prefers him at LB so he can affect the game further back to help build in the first phase, and for continuity. Once Timber is back to fitness then Zin becomes yet another candidate to finally nail down that darn LCM/8/L8 role. The analysts I read advocate to buy another top class winger and move Saka or Odegaard into the 8. Both left footers, the thought is that simplifies the game for them and in Saka’s case, gives him easier access to the… Read more »

.!.ziRascal

I don’t think Zinny has the legs/fitness to play the 8 role. It does require a lot of running un Arteta’s system..

Daveo

Laughable some of the takes on zinchenko. I mean now the guy that literally is ALL over the pitch when he plays the LB role cannot handle the running needed for the #8 role? Dios Mio…

Public Elneny

Zinchenko has all the stamina in the world, I bet he could run like a sub-17 5k if he got the pacing right. It’s just he doesn’t have that explosive pace so wingers that do can just burn past him. Explosive pace isn’t such a big deal in centre mid unless you build your game around it

Ebo

I don’t think Mikel will ever move Odegaard and Saka to the left except in moments, his whole system is predicated on players cutting inside to shoot with their strong foot and the threat of that causing opposition defenders to close down the middle and make space for our fullbacks to run in behind. Agree though that a top forward who could play both as striker and on the wing would be the ideal buy for us this summer, most ideally someone quick and strong… and maybe one who’s shown he can score a hat trick in a world cup… Read more »

Dr. Gooner

We actually have a big systemic problem with chance creation through the center. Too much onus is placed on the wide players to create. The idea is that moving those guys inside would help with that.

Ebo

Maybe I need to read the analyses you’re talking about because I don’t quite see how. Saka isn’t really that kind of creative midfielder, he’s excellent at drawing defenders and making the simple pass or cross but not at seeing the whole field and picking the sort of pass that Odegaard or Jorginho are good at. Odegaard can’t really score with his right foot, so to put him on the left will probably reduce his goal productivity in half surely, and also eliminate much of the threat of him shooting that means at least some defender(s) will want to cover… Read more »

.!.ziRascal

ESR?

A Different George

We almost always have a better chance to win the game when Zinchenko plays then when he doesn’t. I thought he made a big difference when he came on against Bayern. I know Blogs gives most of the credit for that to Gabriel Jesus and Trossard, but I think we were better throughout the half. If he is fit enough, I would play Zinchenko except when (a) we play a side with both a fast right- winger *and* deep-lying playmakers capable of regularly playing accurate long passes to the winger (which, other than Liverpool with Van Dijk and Trent, is… Read more »

Cliff Bastin

Yes but he has also cost us points in the league this season. For the Bayern game it absolutely worked though. Watch the fourfourtwo analysis on YouTube.

Dr. Gooner

I would just say when the game becomes transitional it doesn’t suit him, but the catch is that his presence should make the game less transitional. That’s what makes this a fascinating topic.

We have not tried to control possession when leading this season – instead we drop into a deeper block. Manager probably figures we are good at that and it takes away the risk of a single loose pass causing problems.

Dr. Gooner

People talk about Zinchenko as a defensively liability. He’s not. The moment where Salah turned him and scored a world class goal at Anfield lives large on people’s minds but that can happen to anyone against Salah (and the pass from Trent to set that up was OUTRAGEOUS.) Defending is first and foremost about anticipation and positioning, which has to do with reading the game. Zinchenko is outstanding at that. Like Jorginho, he’s not a duel winner and can look sluggish running backwards. But once that happens, it’s because something else broke down somewhere else. Ideally you shouldn’t need defense… Read more »

Dr. Gooner

My problem with the player is more that he can be loose in possession in high leverage moments. Those moments aren’t about ability, they’re either a lack of concentration or over confidence. Either way, there’s no place for that if you’re playing for Arteta. I hope he’s cleaned that up.

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