In a team full of superstars, 22-year old Oleksandr Zinchenko often does not get the credit he deserves in Manchester City’s back-line. This is in part due to simply not being a big name player, having come from the academy at Shakhtar Donestk rather than one of Europe’s more illustrious outfits. But the Ukrainian left-back has been a key component to Manchester City’s success with little recognition.
Zinchenko is a critical component to Man-City’s inverted fullback style of play, often taking up positions in central areas and creating overloads in the build-up. His fantastic vision, distribution and on-the-ball presence also help to make him a very creative defender. Rather than getting up and down the wing to deliver crosses like say a Liverpool fullback or even Benjamin Mendy, Zinchenko often does more damage closer to the centre of the pitch. With the way Manchester City play out from the back, the two fullbacks end up accumulating a significant amount of touches on the ball and often are used not only to create overloads, but to reset play and start again when one potential passing lane becomes closed. As a result, Zinchenko frequently ends games with over 100 passes and with his incredible ability, it’s no surprise that he completed nearly 92% of his passes last season. Zinchenko likes to play short passes and is capable of easily breaking lines with either a pass or dribble, but his off-the ball movement is perhaps even more impeccable. The fullback is brilliant at taking up the right positions for his side and timing his runs forward to great effect. This leads to him not only creating chances for his side and assisting goals, but also winning fouls for his team in dangerous areas.Embed from Getty Images
However, the Ukrainian’s passing range isn’t the only thing that makes him such an effective footballer. Like all Man City players, Zinchenko absolutely glides with the ball at his feet and is not afraid to take any opposition player on. This often ends up with him having the ball at his feet high up the field and even winning fouls in key areas. With his ability on the ball and positional awareness, the Ukranian fullback could probably even expand his game to other positions, which is something a Guardiola player should always be prepared for. His speed and dynamism could be useful as a left-sided midfielder or wing-back, while perhaps an even better fit would be in central midfield where he could use his fantastic on-the-ball ability to greater effect. Perhaps why he has found himself at left-back instead of higher up the field is the fact that his defensive abilities are also very sound. The Ukrainian makes more than his fair share of tackles and is fairly successful whenever he attempts them. His impressive 2.4 tackles per game last season was by far the best in his team. If City were a team that spent less time in possession of the ball, Zinchenko would undoubtedly be one of the top tacklers in the league, not just his team. Sure, he may make the odd defensive mistake or rash tackle, but what else could you expect from a 22-year old playing in the biggest club in the world? Zinchenko is a fine footballer and his strengths need to start being exemplified and highlighted more than his mistakes, which are few and far between. In fact, to be so composed in possession of the ball at just 22-years of age while playing in the intense pressure of a Pep Guardiola team is quite the accomplishment in its own right.
At just 22-years old Zinchenko is only going to get better and should start to get the credit he deserves for his play at left-back at Manchester City. He might not be as strong as some of the players around him, but Zinchenko is certainly not a weakness in Pep Guardiola’s side. If anything, he is a major strength – highlighted by the incredible statistic that City have won every single game that the Ukrainian has played in. His streak of 23 consecutive matches won is also a Premier League record alongside his teammate David Silva and could be extended to an even greater amount if City continue playing the way they are right now.
Oleksandr Zinchenko is a very talented footballer and needs to stop being such an underrated component to this incredible Manchester City team.
For more articles like this, check out our Premier League section.