Arsenal: Mykola Matviyenko a very different type of transfer

Per TalkSport, Arsenal have submitted a loan bid, to the tune of 4.5 million pounds, for Shakhtar Donetsk defender Mykola Matviyenko. Here’s why the defender is a very astute pickup for the tail end of the season, and hopefully going forward.

Before this week, I had never heard of the 23-year-old center-back that Arsenal are linked to. Matviyenko is a graduate of the Shakhtar Donetsk academy, the generation after Douglas Costa, Alex Taison, Bernard, and Fred. While he’s not Brazilian, the left-sided defender is cut from the same talented mold as the rest.

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Standing at a respectable 6’0″ tall, he has the commanding presence of someone a head taller. His command of the air is nothing short of excellent, and it pales in comparison to his skill at tackling. He averages 1.5 tackles and 2.1 interceptions per game, including 6 UCL appearances—four of which came against Manchester City and PSG—and generally he’s a very solid defender.

He also gets fouled 0.7 times per game, while only committing fouls 0.3 times every game, demonstrating that he’s a mature and composed defender, not just a talented one. His passing percentage is also 88.4%, better than any Arsenal center-back currently playing. And while I take these statistics with a grain of salt—the Ukrainian Premier League isn’t quite up to snuff with its English counterpart—there is no denying his talent.

Matviyenko first caught Arteta’s eye while the Spaniard was Pep Guardiola’s assistant at Manchester City. The Ukrainian played quite well against the Citizens in both of their Champion’s League Ties this fall, shutting down Bernardo Silva and Raheem Sterling, neither of whom scored in either fixture. He also put in a shift against PSG, and has been a stalwart at the back for both club and country.

At 23, he has already earned 26 caps for Ukraine—starting 25 of them, and winning 17—and has looked just as impressive for them. In those 26 games, he has maintained a +26 goal difference, and kept 12 clean sheets, just under half of the games he’s played. Ukraine currently sit first in Group B for Euro 2020 qualifying, above Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, and a Serbia side in its prime.

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Shakhtar have valued him at 30 million pounds, and allegedly prefer that deal to the loan that Arteta has reportedly offered to the Ukrainian giants. The center-back—who also has experience at left-back, and plays well there—has a market value of around 6 million, per Transfermarkt. If we were to approach the club to purchase, I think a fee of 15 million would be appropriate, a bargain for a defender of his ability.

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Now I know what you’re all thinking. Arsenal are linked to another defender, and we know that’s going nowhere. But the Ukrainian is a very different type of player to most of the ones we would be pursing. He is not just a mere stopgap, he’s a potential player for the future.

And for what’s more, the loan bid is a very intelligent move, so that Mikel Arteta and his staff can judge the 23-year-old’s skill, and gauge his role at the club, and how he will fit into the Premier League.

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This is the type of deal Arsenal should be pursuing this January. The last defender of this caliber and profile we pursued was Çağlar Söyüncü, and now he’s tearing it up at Leicester City. Let’s not miss this chance.