Oleksandr Zinchenko or Lisandro Martinez: Are Arsenal getting the better deal?

CARDIFF, WALES - JUNE 05: Oleksandr Zinchenko of Ukraine during the FIFA World Cup Qualifying Playoff match between Wales and Ukraine at Cardiff City Stadium on June 05, 2022 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images)
CARDIFF, WALES - JUNE 05: Oleksandr Zinchenko of Ukraine during the FIFA World Cup Qualifying Playoff match between Wales and Ukraine at Cardiff City Stadium on June 05, 2022 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images) /

When Arsenal first approached Ajax regarding their 2021/22 Player of the Season Lisandro Martinez, negotiations began at €30m.

Sure, the Gunners’ proposals were swiftly rebuffed by the Dutch giants, but there was certainly a point – if you believe some reports – where it looked like Mikel Arteta could add another unicorn to his ranks for a fee in the region of €40m.

Ultimately, it looks like Arteta will get his unicorn. Only this one is Ukrainian, a four-time Premier League winner and just as technically proficient as the unique Martinez.

Ajax’s reluctance to sell their diminutive Argentine deterred the Gunners from entertaining Manchester United in a bidding war. As the club did with Raphinha, they wisely exited negotiations before the potential of being suckered into overpaying occurred.

That left United with a clear path to the Ajax defender and they announced on Sunday that an agreement had been reached with the Eredivise champions for Martinez’s services. It’s a deal that could be worth a staggering €65m!

While United were getting played like a fiddle, Arsenal efficiently moved on to alternative targets following their Martinez disappointment. The Gunners are now set to complete the €35m purchase of Oleksandr Zinchenko from Manchester City. Fabrizio Romano reports that an agreement is in place between the two clubs and a deal will be completed once personal terms are agreed upon.

Oleksandr Zinchenko or Lisandro Martinez: Were Arsenal right to pursue the former?

Now, there’s no denying that Martinez is someone I would’ve loved to have seen at the Emirates. He’s an absolute freak; a marauding paradox. The ‘Butcher of Amsterdam’ combines vintage Argentinian ferocity and unerring technical proficiency to create a breed of footballer that’s almost entirely unique – even during a time where player profiles are becoming more abstract and harder to define.

Martinez can perform three functions to a high standard, and it was his versatility that intrigued Arteta the most. Multi-functionality appears to be a prerequisite for the Spaniard in regards to incomings and Martinez’s capacity to play as a left-sided centre-back, left-back and holding midfielder means he most certainly fits the bill.

Overall, the Argentine; despite his 5″9′ frame and lack of Premier League experience, will likely be a hit under his former boss Erik ten Hag in Manchester. But, Arsenal were right to back down when they did, and the vast majority of supporters are thrilled with the alternative.

Zinchenko, like Martinez, is a wonderful fit for Arteta’s system which is predicated around the monopolisation of possession, flexibility, and sustained pressure. Zinchenko has ‘thrived’ in the same type of system Arteta is attempting to replicate up in Manchester under Pep Guardiola, where he often played as an inverted left-back in Pep’s 2-3-5/3-2-5 attacking structure.

The Ukrainian is a genius technician who’s comfortable receiving at various angles and operating in numerous different zones. He’s so press resistant – he can turn on a dime like Alexis Sanchez – while his ball progression stats can’t be scoffed at. Last season, Zinchenko – when compared to full-backs in Europe’s top five leagues – ranked in the 99th percentiles for both progressive passes (8.02) and progressive carries (9.3) per 90 minutes.

He might not boast the spectacularity of Martinez, nor the almighty leap when challenging in the air, but Zinchenko does possess a champion mentality and he can provide cover in a more advanced midfield position. Many believe his club future lies away from full-back.

Thus, it’ll be interesting to see how Arteta uses Zinchenko should he complete his move to the Emirates, which appears likely. While there are some drawbacks – he isn’t the most athletic, for example – this looks to be an excellent bit of business from Arsenal for a more than fair price.

While Martinez has the potential to be brilliant, United have forked out a huge wad of cash to bring him to Old Trafford and there are no guarantees that the form he displayed at Ajax will translate over to the Premier League. Although, he will be aided by the familiarity of Ten Hag’s principles.

With Zinchenko, however, there’s almost no risk attached. The 25-year-old is at one with the English top-flight and he’s proven his efficacy in the ultimate possession-oriented system. It’s one of the safest signings of the summer and considering that he’ll cost Arsenal almost half the price of Martinez, Zinchenko has to be regarded as the better piece of business (on paper!).