Oleksandr Zinchenko Scout report: The young Ukrainian midfielder signed by Manchester City
Manchester City had made their intentions clear by announcing the signing of Pep Guardiola from Bayern in early February and all eyes are on the Sky Blue outfit as they look to impose their dominance in the Premier League. Already having confirmed the high profile signings of German midfielder Gundogan from Dortmund and Spanish striker Nolito from Celta Vigo, Guardiola has also signed rising Socceroos star, Aaron Mooy on a free transfer from City Football group owned Melbourne City in the A-league. The latest player to sign for the Citizens is young Ukrainian midfielder Oleksandr Zinchenko from FC Ufa in the Russian Premier League.
Born in December 1996 in the small town of Radomyshl with a population of around 15,000, Zinchenko started his footballing journey with the youth clubs of Monolit Illichivsk and Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine. He was a crucial member of Shakhtar’s team in the 2013-14 UEFA youth league where he scored the opening goal in the decider against Manchester United to qualify for the round of 16. Having played in the U-17 and U-19 European Championships for Ukraine, Zinchenko was included on both occasions in the Team of the Tournament.
He moved to Russia on a trial for Rubin Kazan and was picked up instead by Russian Premier League new boys, FC Ufa. Interestingly, Ufa gained fame due to former Arsenal midfielder, Emmanuel Frimpong, after he was sent off in Ufa’s game against Spartak Moscow for showing his middle finger to the stands after allegedly being subjected to racist remarks from the crowd.
At the age of only 18 years, Zinchenko made his debut at home in the Russian Premier League against Krasnodar which ended in a 0-2 loss to the home side. He appeared seven times in the 2014-15 season starting only twice in the League.
His breakthrough came in the 2015-16 season where made 24 first team appearances in the league and also appeared twice in Ufa’s Russian Cup campaign which ended in a 2-0 loss in the quarterfinals to eventual finalist and Russian premier league champions, CSKA Moscow. He scored twice and made four assists to help FC Ufa avoid a relegation playoff. His campaign with Ufa earned him a spot in the national team and he made his International debut in the Euro qualification match against Spain in October 2015.
Zinchenko made headlines by displacing Ukrainian and AC Milan legend Andriy Shevchenko as Ukraine’s youngest player to score in an international game. He is in contention for the Euro 2016 young player of the tournament and has appeared in all three of Ukraine’s matches in the group stage, starting in the match against Poland and coming on as a substitute for Victor Kovalenko in the 73rd and 83rd minute in the match against Germany and Northern Ireland respectively.
At 5ft 9inches, Zinchenko has the perfect height to be a midfielder with close ball control and dribbling skills. He scored the crucial opener in the away game against champions league outfit, Zenit, a match which ended in a one all draw and this demonstrated his ability to turn up in big matches. He prefers playing in the attacking midfield position but can play on both flanks if needed. His versatility is proved by his appearances for Ufa as a midfielder playing in defensive, central, right, and attacking positions and has even been deployed as a Left back.
A very prominent aspect of Zinchenko’s game is putting in crosses from wide midfield positions. He is a very strong tackler and intercepts the ball well and those are rare qualities in a midfielder whose primary instinct is to attack. He also likes to step up in dead ball situations and has shown a propensity to take long range shots with his left foot. He has made six appearances for the national side, showing maturity beyond his years and his goal against Romania in the friendly leading up to the Euro’s shows a remarkable ability to stay calm in front of goal.
Zinchenko’s physique might prove to be a problem while playing for the Citizens. He weighs only 64kgs and it enables him to zip past defenders but he might need to bulk up if he is to survive in the Premier League as he could become an easy target for the teams that like to play physical football. Also with prominent names featuring in the midfield for City, Zinchenko will need to display a lot more, both tactically and physically to earn his spot in the starting lineup.
The player’s agent, Oleg Eryomin has been quick to dismiss speculations, saying "Zinchenko wanted to work under Pep Guardiola and play in the Premier League. We didn't consider a loan ahead of next season. What is a reason behind that? We have healthy ambitions. Guardiola knows his abilities and waits for him. We expect Zinchenko to play regularly for Manchester City in the starting lineup.”
His playing style suggests, he could be brought in as a long-term replacement for David Silva. For now, the young Ukrainian might be loaned off to gain first team experience but Guardiola is known to give young players a chance to shine. He might also feature in the domestic cup matches as City will need to rest some of their key players often as they will be participating in four competitions.