Oleksandr Zinchenko‘s (£5.0m) move to Arsenal has seen his Fantasy Premier League (FPL) ownership climb past the 10% mark.
As a result, the Ukraine international is now a more popular purchase than Andrew Robertson (£7.0m) and every other Gunners defender in FPL.
Is Arsenal’s £30m new signing worthy of the newfound Fantasy interest, then? We’ll assess his appeal in this Moving Target piece.
WHAT PLAYER AND MANAGER HAVE SAID
“He can play in both (defence and midfield). He was a natural No. 10 early in his career and we converted him into a left-back which can do a lot of things that we want in our way of playing.
“That versatility is something that is going to be important for the team because we have players in that position who are more specific full-back so I’m really happy.” – Mikel Arteta
“He’s a player that I personally know really well and continued to follow him after my time at Manchester City. Alex is a high-quality player who will give us options and versatility. It’s not only about the positions he can play but as well, the versatility he will give us in attack and defence. Alex is a person with great human qualities and character, and I’m delighted that everyone has made this huge effort to bring Alex to the club.” – Mikel Arteta
“[My best position is] wherever the manager is going to see me on the pitches. It’s the simple answer but it’s true, even if the manager tells me one day I need to be goalkeeper, I will be there.
“Yes, we spoke about my role in this team, but I would like to keep it private and then we are going to see.” – Oleksandr Zinchenko
“He was desperate to play and I knew that. It was a maximum 45 minutes but you could see straight away he was comfortable. He understands everything that I want, he understands the process and I thought he had a really good game.” – Mikel Arteta after Oleksandr Zinchenko’s debut v Chelsea
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Never starting more than 15 Premier League games in a season and not stringing together more than four successive league appearances since the beginning of 2019/20, we haven’t really been able to take a sustained look at Zinchenko as an FPL asset.
The complete absence of goals is notable, while the assist count is modest, too – although four of those did arrive in 2021/22 from just 10 starts and five substitute appearances.
Virtually all of his City run-outs came at left-back, with opportunities to shine in midfield few and far between.
That wasn’t the case at his first club, Ufa, where the bulk of his 31 Russian top-flight appearances came in either a central, wide or attacking midfield role. Two goals and four assists came from those showings before he left, as a teenager, to join City.
And as for international duty, the Ukraine captain is almost exclusively used in central midfield.
A more eye-catching eight goals have arrived from his 52 caps, with his attacking potential showcased in last summer’s Euro 2020 quarter-final against Sweden.
WHERE WILL HE FIT IN AT ARSENAL?
Left-back or a left-sided number 8?
We’ll probably see Zinchenko in both positions during his time in north London but at the moment, the strong indications are that he will start the season at left-back.
Kieran Tierney (£5.0m) is now back in training but the injury-prone Scot has missed a big chunk of pre-season, featuring for only half an hour against Nurnberg on July 8 before fitness issues caused him to disappear from view again.
Zinchenko was indeed used at left-back in the thrashing of Chelsea, impressing in his 45-minute showing with his passing in particular.
There is, in fact, one more key quote we haven’t brought you yet from Arteta, which the Arsenal boss delivered a week ago.
“His main position is left-back but within that position and within the formation that we have he can alter and occupy different spaces on the pitch and this is the main quality he has.” – Mikel Arteta
What Arteta said above about Zinchenko occupying “different spaces” was evident against Chelsea: on some occasions he would tuck into central midfield or occupy the half-spaces, on others he would stick wider and bomb forward when left-winger Gabriel Martinelli (£6.0m) drifted infield.
With existing left-back options Tierney and Nuno Tavares (£4.5m) more at home hugging the touchline, Zinchenko’s arrival allows Arteta the option of further emulating his mentor Pep Guardiola’s ‘inverted full-back’ tactics.
“Zinchenko’s versatility has been particularly beneficial given the way Guardiola uses his full-backs. The City manager looked to invert his full-backs from the very early stages of his tenure at the Etihad, which his former City No 2 Arteta has attempted to replicate since getting the Arsenal job in December 2019, but mostly just with his right-backs.
“Takehiro Tomiyasu has emerged as the most comfortable aiding build-up play in more central areas of the pitch but Hector Bellerin and Ainsley Maitland-Niles have also tried to meet their manager’s demands over the past two and a half years.” – Art de Roche/Mark Carey, The Athletic
When we do see Zinchenko in midfield, it’ll likely be at the expense of Granit Xhaka (£5.0m), whose limitations as a number eight even Arteta admitted to last season. The reported pursuit of Lyon’s Lucas Paqueta, however, suggests that the Arsenal boss wants even more options in the engine room for his dream 4-3-3 set-up.