Arsenal Analysis – Is Zinchenko the midfielder that Arteta wanted Xhaka to be?

Oleksandr Zinchenko – Everything Arteta wanted Xhaka to be for Arsenal.  by Victor

With Mikel Arteta clearly sold on the idea of being tactically unpredictable for opposition teams, he needed the crop of players he inherited from Unai Emery to be tactically flexible in unlocking opposition defenses, while maintaining a balanced tactical shape between defense and attack.

One of those he very much entrusted with such tactical flexibility is Granit Xhaka; a player who many Arsenal fans believed was never really good enough and should be escorted out the exit door at the Emirates Stadium. The gaffer, however, upon his return to the Arsenal saw what many couldn’t see in the Swiss, especially from a tactical point of view. Having modeled his coaching style after that of his mentor – Pep Guardiola, the Spaniard knew exactly the kind of football he wanted his team to play and Xhaka was of course integral to the system to be implemented.

Firstly, Arteta wanted to build a team capable of playing from the back while utilizing players that are naturally comfortable in possession under pressure, and also occupying positions where they can carry-out the aforementioned style with their preferred foot. Playing a left-footed Centre Back in Gabriel was one, with a left-footed Left Back obviously the second, while a left-footed Centre Midfielder was the third piece of the puzzle. The latter is where Xhaka comes in. Instead of a right-footed Centre Back or Left Centre Midfielder playing straight and short passes to a team-mate hugging the lines; but always coming deep to receive a pass, a left-footer occupying the same position on the pitch can easily curl a pass unto a team-mate in an advanced position on the lines to beat the opposition’s press.

Secondly, talking about tactical flexibility, we have seen from the manager’s first full season at the helm, the various tactical shifts he loves to employ during the course of a match: from full backs playing inverted roles which allows box-to-box midfielders take up more advanced roles, to the left-sided midfielder (usually Xhaka) taking up a role I personally call ‘the half-centre midfield role’ where he covers for the overlapping left-back.

With the Switzerland international being the only left-footed deep-lying playmaker with defensive attributes in the teams, he was the obvious go-to-man. To be fair, he didn’t perform badly, but on many occasions he was let down by his lack of pace and his tendency to pick up needless bookings by committing needless fouls did not help matters. This two major factors probably prompted his coach to look for a better option in the familiar figure of Zinchenko.

‘Zinny’ as he is popularly called, is a player in whom Arteta will find all that he wished Xhaka could be for his team; he is naturally an attacking midfielder who is adept at playing the left-back position, defensively sound, tactically and technically talented, he is a disciplined professional on the pitch and, most importantly, he was prepped by Pep. It is safe to say that he needs little coaching to understand what tactical positions to occupy, the movements or runs to be made as well as the timing of those runs – I mean; he’s from the same system as Arteta, and with the manager building what might be a prototype of a Guardiola team, the Ukrainian is the perfect left-sided creative-cum-defensive solution the Spaniard wished he had in the temperamentally unpredictable Granit Xhaka.

Victor Ibiniyi


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  1. 30 mins to the match any one got any links or know which station it’s on?
    2-1 to us i think and hope.

  2. I thought Zinchenko was going to be our main left AM for EPL games. But if Tavares is going to Atalanta, Zinchenko would most likely be our LB in cup games

    I don’t doubt Zinchenko’s technicality, decision making, timing, defending and dribbling skills, but I’m worried about his pace in the LB position

    Transfer Checker said Arsenal are waiting until Paqueta’s and Tielemans’ price tags get lowered at the end of this summer transfer window. Hopefully we can sell some of our players first, to sign Paqueta

  3. I think too much is being made about someone who was basically a fringe player at man City

    1. and starter/captain for Ukraine where he looks great in midfield every game for them, and Pep has even said Zinchenko’s best position is there

  4. Many hope Zinchenko is competition or upgrade on Xhaka. He’s comfortable in midfield, can dictate play as seen with his national team.

    However, I’ll wait until I see Arteta actually drop or bench Xhaka before I believe it. All the talk, all the yellow and red cards, all his rashness at the most inopportune times, and he is still in the lineup next game.

    We have all seen Xhaka over his 5+ years at Arsenal.

    He isn’t stepping up or changing his game, developing new skills, or leading us back to the CL. Admit he’s not good enough, cut bait, and replace with better.

    Done it at striker, CB, FB, GK, AM, time to make the change at CM as well

  5. The apprentice will rather quit the club rather than bench or sell xhaka. Xhaka always remind me of the apprentice when he was playing for event on and arsenal.
    The only difference between xhaka and Arteta in his playing days is that he does pick up red cards like xhaka.

    1. @ mruncool
      Stop calling a manager that has got our team to fifth in the league an apprentice. Ypur opening statement is so idiotic i am assuming you are a troll. Unless of course you can do better…

      1. 👍
        It gets tiresome after 2 and a half years.
        I wonder if Lampard is referred to as the apprentice?

        1. Lampard made his way through the championship before he went to Chelsea sue .
          Not sure why Pat is having ago at Mrcool
          For stating facts .
          No offence Pat ,but let’s see what this magician as in store for us before you call a fellow fan a troll
          How about I do another bet ,top 4 and EL winners and if it comes in I give it to your charity of choice

          1. Your comment lacks credibility. How is it appropriate to incessantly refer to an established manager as an apprentice?
            MrCool’s comments are sadly part of regular unnecessary vitriol that some fans are all too ready to support.

          2. He did Dan kit and failed to make it to the EPL with Derby and didn’t get another job – or take – until Everton.
            I personally believe he’d have been better off taking work and practised being a manager for a bit longer.
            What I will say is that neither Arteta or Lampard are apprentices now and Arteta was extremely lucky to have been given time

            1. I missed out Chelsea 🙄 but that didn’t end well. I think FL was lucky to get the Everton job

          3. Stating facts? So Lampard going to Derby for one year and losing the play-off final meant he wasn’t an apprentice? Arteta’s 4 years as assistant to Pep where City won multiple titles including the league twice meant he was? If so then I guess that means only managerial experience counts? In that case how is Arteta still apprentice? He’s done more than 1 year and has done it in the Prem not the championship and has also won the FA Cup not lost a play-off final. Lampard had 1 and half at Chelsea and half a season at Everton means he’s not an apprentice but Arteta being Arsenals manager for 2 and half means he is? They have both managed clubs for the same length of time and Arteta has 4 extra assisting Pep. Looking at their records it’s clear too. Lampards crowning achievement is a lost play-off final and Arteta’s is an FA Cup win. In the league Lampard managed a 4th place finish on 67 points, Arteta has only managed a 5th place but on a larger 69 points. His record at Chelsea in what was a more expensively assembled squad, with better recent history and a higher wage budget is 44W-17D-23L compared to Arteta 49W-16D-31L is marginally better but essentially the same. 5 more wins for Arteta but 8 more loses and 1 less draw. Percentage terms it’s near identical.

            Just curious why you believe he is still an apprentice?

            Also love your silly bet top 4 and the Europa League. It’s the equivalent of betting on City to win the Prem/CL or the season presumably will be a failure? Laughable. A bet on achieving one or the other would be more appropriate particularly given your regular posts. Frankly finishing 5th would be better than the credit you give Arteta in your posts but alas there we are.

    2. Mr Hothead, aka Cool!

      Id say is YOU who is an apprentice; an apprentice human being in fact!
      And not one who looks likely to qualify as a fully fledged human anytime soon!

  6. Why all the hate on Xhaka, he is an automatic starter for all three managers he has played under at Arsenal and all of them have been tactically very astute. Wenger, Emery and now Arteta. Also as per Arteta they were monitoring him at City. I myself never saw the value of Xhaka but people with more knowledge of soccer then all of us put together trust this man. I don’t see Zinchnko displacing Xhaka anytime soon.

  7. Zinchenko is basically a skilful left sided central midfielder, who pulls the strings for the Ukraine from that position.Xhaka plays a similar role for Arsenal, but rarely imposes himself in matches, being unable to do more than recycle the ball which he does efficiently, but slowly.He is not capable of driving forward to commit opponents whereas Zinchenko at least attempts to do so although he too does not have the pace to create real problems.The fact that he can slip into the LB position with ease, is where he becomes more valuable than Xhaka but if Tierney plays ,either Xhaka or Zinchenko will be on the bench.Ideally I would like to see Xhaka moved on, but it appears Arteta still rates him highly, so I expect him to figure on a regular basis, as usual.The prospect of playing both in midfield does not appeal to me at all for obvious reasons.

    1. The drop outside of top 4 started with his arrival! He’s an average player who’s very vocal on the field with leadership.. He lowers the performances of the midfield with how he dictates the play.. Great leader on the field but an average footballer

      1. Drop outside out top 4 also coincided with Arteta leaving the club to go assist Pep. Despite all the grief Arteta the player and particularly the Captain got on these very forums. We never finished outside the top 4 with him there. So many he’s not captain material and per is not vice-captain material posts now manager of the 1st and academy respectively, funny how time works.

  8. Xhaka is still my best midfielder in Arsenal full stop.. As long as MA trust him to play I trust him.

  9. The question is whether he is a transformative signing and is the same about all of our signings. I can see them either elevating the club or being mid.

  10. He’s at left back tonight in a very strong starting eleven,

  11. Coyg . I’m really interested to see how white handles sterling, Tomi literally pocketed him in our last March vs City

  12. Okay that was a dominant first half. Good high press to get the first goal. Martinelli good one to assist Ødegaard who took his goal well.
    Everyone looks solid, our bench without injured players look so weak.
    Zinchenko hàs been very good going forward, Ramsdale’s distribution back on it seems.
    Ødegaard and Jesus will be deadly.
    Enjoyed that first half.
    I doubt the second half will be as interesting or dominant when our B team comes on😒

    1. Yes i agree , super show from the lads , they look ready to go from the start , its a friendly but still it’s looking a whole lot better to me.

    2. Edie it’s worthy staying up waiting for this game absolutely scintillating football. Oooh boy that saliba what a gem, odegard that run to goal not even mentioning the pass from martinelli. We should be 4-0 up. Enjoying this no breather

      1. Really impressed with Saliba; composed, solid reader of the game, quality defender.

        I’ve said before, Saliba & Gabriel is the pairing at the back, White should be our CDM. Don’t see him beating out Saliba to start, Saliba currently a better defender.

        1. Exactly Durand, Saliba has been amazing. And that chant of his name around the stadium was deserved

      2. Well we ended it with 4 goals.
        Saliba is calm and I love it.
        Big body, calm and concentrated. Longay it continue.
        Saka’s goal was offside but we’ll, take that out and it’s still a great performance.
        Not impressed with his contribution all get though.
        That’s why we tried bringing in Raphinha, that’s why we need a quality RW player to come compete with him not just rotate. We need someone with quality to actually push him. Everyone on the pitch has competition now except Saka and Partey.
        Overall it was a beautiful game. Let’s take this sharpness to Palace and start strong.

        1. agree eddie, but good to see others step up as well. I think another RW will be good for rotation and pushing Saka too. Martinelli was good yesterday i thought as well and showed he can dod more than just run onto balls. He was quite creative yesterday as well and good with tracking back.

  13. Tonight, it looked to me as if Xhaka is the midfielder Arteta, and all Arsenal fans, want him to be. He is greatly underappreciated. Thanks to our management that he is still an Arsenal player.

    1. Didn’t see the game in full, but that piece of skill and shot before Saka scored was brilliant – I know it’s a friendly but still, didn’t know he had that in him

  14. What most people don’t understand, is that, a player most often gets better when there is hunger for success in the team. Especially, if the player want to be part of the success story. I believe we are going to see a different xhaka this up coming season and not just xhaka watch out for others too. There’s big vibe in the team now.

  15. Great performance. But be wary, as soon as the EPL gets going, the ominous VAR gets going. And then the shit starts happening. I can bet in today’s game, Saliba’s challenge on werner, though was clean, VAR might have screwed it up, and so on.

    Teams like Chelsea, and especially spuds, they try every trick in their hands to get a win. I still can’t forget Kulusevski’s dive yesterday against Rangers, such a pathetic attempt in a friendly. Imagine them in league games. Son, Kane and now Richarlison, all forward players spuds have are consistent divers and penalty / freekick getters. That’s how they win most games tbh.

    So I worry for Arsenal, and the way they play, it’s beautiful to watch and very honest in manner, but they are going against ruthless cheaters, divers and foul players in the league, so they better be prepared to see that coming and learn how to respond to such events. We have two players now who understand that and can navigate around such things, Jesus and Zinky. Rest they need to learn.

    But it was a great game. Superb from Arsenal.

  16. Head to head per 90 mns, season 21/22
    -aerial duels won:1.29-1.04
    -tackles won:1.21-0.69
    -forward passes:24.74-19.65
    -chances created:1.38-1.24
    -possession won (defense):2.67-2.2
    -possession won (mildfield)2.67-2.9
    Zinchenko has better stats in every department bar 1.

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