Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has described Oleksandr Zinchenko as an “exceptional footballer” ahead of his £32m move from Manchester City.
Speaking after a 3-1 win over Orlando City during the Gunners’ pre-season tour in the USA, Arteta said: “As you’ve seen, he is here [in Orlando]. There are still a few formalities to get everything completed but we’re really happy to have him.
“I know the player really well, he’s an exceptional footballer and he is someone that is going to bring us another competitive edge to that dressing room.”
Arteta also shed light on where he might deploy the Ukraine international, who played as a left-back under Pep Guardiola and is used in a midfield role at international level. “He can play in both,” added Arteta.
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“He was a natural No 10 early in his career and we converted him into a left-back [at Manchester City], 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-backs, so I’m really happy.
“[Versatility] is one of the things and the way we can adapt structures, formations and rotations within the squad and playing with the same players in a different way. To be more unpredictable is obviously important and that is why we have recruited [versatile] players.”
‘We have a big squad, things must happen’
Zinchenko will be Arsenal’s fifth recruit of the summer after signing Gabriel Jesus (£45m), Fabio Vieira (£34m), Matt Turner (£7.5m) and Marquinhos (£3m), while Alexandre Lacazette remains the only first-team departure.
“We have a large squad,” added Arteta.”We have to make some decisions on the players that we’re not going to be using consistently and be fair and straight with them and that’s a process that is going to start very soon as well.
“We have to, and now we have to make things happen.
Orlando City 1-3 Arsenal
Arsenal made it four wins out of four in pre-season as second-half goals from Eddie Nketiah and Reiss Nelson gave the Gunners secured a 3-1 victory over Orlando City.
Gabriel Martinelli had given Mikel Arteta’s side an early lead. The hosts then equalised as half-time approached but Nketiah and Nelson struck after the break to seal the win.
Sky Sports football journalist Sam Blitz:
“Mikel Arteta has been looking at additions at left-back and central midfield in this summer transfer window. The Gunners wanted Ajax’s Lisandro Martinez, who has experience in playing in both positions as well as centre half, but now looks destined for Manchester United. Leicester City’s Youri Tielemans has also been looked at but that interest has cooled in recent weeks.
“There is reason why the Arsenal manager needs support in that role. At left-back, Kieran Tierney has picked up long-term injuries in the last two seasons at crucial moments and while Nuno Tavares was signed as cover last summer, the young Portuguese full-back struggled in the big moments and ended up behind Cedric Soares and Granit Xhaka in the left-back pecking order come the end of the season.
“In midfield, Xhaka is a mainstay in Arteta’s team but there is little competition for his specific role. Thomas Partey, Mohamed Elneny and Albert Sambi Lokonga all compete for the same position at the base of Arsenal’s midfield, leaving Xhaka to a number 8 role.
“Should he play in midfield, a role he undertakes regularly at international level, Zinchenko would compete with Xhaka at Arsenal – and a closer look at their respective heatmaps last season shows that the two play in the same area of the pitch, even though the Ukrainian played at left-back and the Arsenal man operated from midfield.
“On the ball, Zinchenko’s passing statistics are superior to Xhaka’s – but that is to be expected given Guardiola’s City keep the ball and use it better than Arsenal. Zinchenko and City defended a lot less than Arsenal last summer, but the Ukrainian international’s defensive stats still trump Xhaka’s. Zinchenko won more tackles, interceptions and challenges in the air than the Swiss midfielder – a reminder that the two players operate in roughly the same area of the pitch.”
Pep: Zinchenko’s impact has been massive
Pep Guardiola has hailed the impact Oleksandr Zinchenko had at Manchester City and said the success the Ukraine international earns at Arsenal will be shared by his former club.
Ahead of Zinchenko’s move to the Emirates, the City boss said: “Like Gabriel [Jesus] and Raheem [Sterling], the impact of those three players in the years I am here has been massive.
“So we are going to miss them. They are exceptional players but, for different circumstances, they move on.
“Chelsea and Arsenal are two incredible clubs and the success and happiness they will have there will be ours.
“For myself and I think on behalf of the club, our gratitude for their effort and the way they behave on and off the pitch.
“It was nice yesterday with Oleks because we could say ‘bye’ properly. Unfortunately with Raheem and Gabriel we could not do it because it was the summertime, but yesterday at dinner together we could say ‘bye’ to him.”