Why Man City must reject Arsenal interest in Oleksandr Zinchenko – Tyrone Marshall
The spotlight on title-winning teams will inevitably fall on the show’s stars, the players who have contributed most in a glittering season or come up clutch at crucial moments (hello, Ilkay Gundogan).
But successes of the like Manchester City have achieved in recent years are built on far more than that. They need solid foundations, such as good characters who understand their role in the team. Keeping everyone happy in a squad of around 20 professionals in a team as supreme as City’s is no easy task, however, and that is why Pep Guardiola has always had a phlegmatic approach to players who want to get off the ride that is being provided at the Etihad.
So despite a relatively thin squad and having recently secured a fourth Premier League title in five years, this is again a summer in which City are facing up to some possible departures.
Raheem Sterling is considering his own future with 12 months remaining on his contract and Oleksandr Zinchenko and Gabriel Jesus are both being pursued by Arsenal. The summer arrivals of Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez will clearly give Jesus reason to think about his future and it does feel like it might be time for a change for the Brazilian.
Of that trio it’s Zinchenko who is the lowest key player, and the one who would receive the fewest column inches should he leave this summer. But he’s also exactly the kind of player that every successful side needs to keep the wheels in motion.
The 25-year-old started just 10 Premier League games last season and in his five campaigns against City he’s never begun more than 15 and never featured in more than 20 of the club’s 38 league fixtures, but it still feels like he has an integral part of the group.
He’s maybe previously been underappreciated by some City supporters, but that is a bond that has grown closer since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February. Zinchenko’s response to the appalling events going on back home has been incredible and,even from a distance, he has more than played his part in the response effort.
Since joining up with his international teammates this month his character has been on show once again. As captain, he has led the team superbly and his press conference at Hampden Park on Tuesday before the World Cup play-off semi-final against Scotland was as inspirational as it was emotional.
A day later Zinchenko reminded the world of just what a brilliant player he is. He was the best player on the pitch by some distance, driving Ukraine to a 3-1 win to set up Sunday’s final against Wales, with the victors securing a place in the World Cup this winter.
Having played left-back all season for the Blues, Zinchenko was back in midfield for his country and controlled the game for Ukraine. It was fitting he created the third goal with the final action of the game.
Now he will lead Ukraine into Sunday’s showdown in Cardiff with praise from Wales’ Ben Davies ringing in his ears. “The way that Zinchenko has handled it all in the media is a real credit to him, and he has shown what a stand-out man he is,” said the Spurs man.
Zinchenko has proven his class on and off the field recently. He is the kind of versatile and valuable player that every title-winning team needs.
Guardiola might always be open to letting unhappy players leave, but City would be losing plenty if Zinchenko did depart.