Oleksandr Zinchenko is turning out to be Arsenal’s key man

While praise is rightly showered on Gabriel Jesus and William Saliba for the blistering starts to their respective Arsenal careers, Oleksandr Zinchenko’s acquisition is proving to be a masterstroke by Mikel Arteta and Edu Gaspar whose decisions have so often been maligned.

The club were initially strongly linked with a move for Ajax’s Lisandro Martinez, but Manchester United eventually won the race for the Argentine. And when interest in Zinchenko trickled out in the media, doubts were swirling around. Upon signing, Gary Neville said the 25-year-old, who became the youngest captain in Ukrainian football history, was “not a leader” and questioned whether he could get Arsenal over the line.

Opposition fans mocked the club for having to settle for Manchester City’s leftovers (oh no!) while United signed a starter for Ajax who would, they said, turn out to be the better signing.

But their introductions into their respective teams could not be any different. Zinchenko has been instrumental in Arsenal’s first three games, helping secure clean sheets in two of those games. He also has an assist to his name. Martinez, meanwhile, has floundered at United, with opposition teams identifying him as the weakest link in their backline.

Oleksandr Zinchenko is turning out to be Arsenal’s key man

The Ukrainian has quickly proved himself to be an indispensable part of the team. Although the season is only three games in, his skillset and influence on the team has added another dimension, building a rapport on the left with Gabriel Martinelli and Granit Xhaka. His performance against Bournemouth was impressive as he kept things ticking in possession while taking up a myriad of positions. Defensively, Zinchenko brought stability and serenity in transition and he racked up an impressive nine possession regains in the first half.

However, some questions remain regarding the 25-year-old. While he’s as technically proficient and intelligent as they come, Zinchenko isn’t the most athletic of footballers. He was exposed a few times at Crystal Palace and was overloaded for James Maddison’s goal on Matchday 2, though had Xhaka tracked Maddison’s run, that goal could have been prevented.

Perhaps Arteta plans on drafting in Kieran Tierney for tougher games against the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City, with Zinchenko’s flexibility allowing him to slot seamlessly into the midfield – a position he regularly drifts into now despite being the left-back. His progressive passing and defensive instincts will provide an additional layer of security in the midfield against superior opposition.

Nonetheless, Zinchenko has, so far, been a revelation. Arsenal look a significantly better, more cohesive team with him in it. Saliba and Jesus may get the plaudits, but every team needs a steady, important figure whose importance is undisputed but sometimes overlooked. For Arsenal that is Zinchenko.

Arsenal fans will hope he maintains – or builds on – his form as the season progresses and fixtures get tougher.