sport news Oleksandr Zinchenko has become the key cog at Arsenal… why DID Pep Guardiola ... trends now
This season, through the haze of ecstasy and reverie at the Emirates, there are two images of Oleksandr Zinchenko that linger longer than most.
The first came back in August, when the Ukrainian sprinted down the touchline following Gabriel’s late winner over Fulham.
For the first time all season, Arsenal had met adversity. For the first of many times, they trampled through it towards victory. There was only one issue: Zinchenko was supposed to be injured.
Oleksandr Zinchenko has emerged a crucial cog in Arsenal's Premier League title challenge
He celebrated jubilantly with fans as Eddie Nketiah netted his last-gasp winner against United
He was wearing a knee brace and his wild celebrations, it recently emerged, earned him a ticking-off from the FA.
Then on Sunday, after Eddie Nketiah’s last-minute winner against Manchester United, Zinchenko turned to the stands. He closed his eyes, punched the air, and let out a visceral roar.
Together, they encapsulate the emotions of this campaign and the spirit Zinchenko has added to Mikel Arteta’s squad since arriving from Manchester City.
In Orlando last summer, even before the Ukrainian had completed his £30million move, players such as Aaron Ramsdale could sense the shift. Having already landed Gabriel Jesus, Arsenal were signing another player for whom winning was a habit.
The versatile star reunited with Mikel Arteta last summer after leaving Man City for £30million
He tucks into the midfield more than Kieran Tierney to aid with Arsenal's build-up in attack
That told Ramsdale and his team-mates: this club is not settling for Champions League football.
That message has been reinforced by Zinchenko and Jesus. By the standards they set in training. But also in their words.
‘When I just arrived… I realised on the pitch that we have everything to achieve the big things. And I started to speak in the dressing room like, “Guys, forget top three or whatever it is, we need to think about the title”,’ Zinchenko said on Sunday. ‘Some of them were laughing, but no one is laughing now.’
Arteta signed Zinchenko — and Jesus — to add ‘competitive edge’ and on Wednesday, he again highlighted the Ukrainian’s mentality.
Gabriel Jesus also arrived from Manchester City last summer and was superb before his injury
‘He has a real desire to make something special with this team and the experience that he has had in the past is very helpful to do that,’ Arteta said.
Yet to suggest the 26-year-old’s influence is limited to leadership and mindset would be to ignore the transformative impact he makes with his feet. Buying players from City has allowed Arteta to