Mark Temnycky –
On 4 July 2016 Manchester City announced the signing of Oleksandr Zinchenko from Russian club Ufa. Though excitement surrounded this transfer, what developed in the 2016/17 season was one to forget.
Unable to secure a place in City’s senior squad, Zinchenko was sent on loan to PSV Eindhoven so that he could gain first-team experience. Unfortunately, the young midfielder struggled in the Netherlands. Zinchenko made only 12 appearances for the senior team before he was dumped to the reserves. By the end of his loan spell, the Ukrainian stated he felt unwelcome at the club and hoped for an eventual return to Manchester.
Manchester City’s first year under Pep Guardiola’s managerial tenure also ended in disappointment. Following the conclusion of the 2016/17 season, the Citizens went on a large spending spree in the summer transfer window to overhaul its club, and with the acquisition of several new players, it seemed another loan spell beckoned for Zinchenko.
Toward the end of the window, ESPN FC announced the Ukrainian would be sent to Napoli on loan with an option to buy. The potential loan collapsed after the Champions League Group Stage draw, where Napoli and Manchester City were placed into Group F. While official reports claimed the Italian board had lost interest in the midfielder, one may wonder if the group draw affected the outcome of the loan. Nonetheless, the transfer window closed, and Zinchenko remained in Manchester.
Fate had other plans for Oleksandr Zinchenko
It seemed fate had other plans. Determined to impress his employers, Zinchenko developed a “first in, last out” mentality when practising with Manchester City’s senior team. After several months of intensive training, Guardiola was impressed.
Zinchenko’s versatility has played a significant role in his development. During the start of the 2017/18 season, the Citizens unexpectedly lost their starting left-back Benjamin Mendy to an ACL rupture, and without another natural left-back, Guardiola began to experiment with his players. Out-of-favour midfielder Fabian Delph won the job, but Zinchenko’s work ethic and flexibility impressed his manager, demonstrating that, unlike several of his younger teammates, Zinchenko could feature as a makeshift left-back.
City’s impressive run in all competitions can also be contributed to Zinchenko’s unexpected success. Over the span of 28 games, the Citizens have won 26 matches, drawn once and lost once. During this remarkable run, City have netted 77 goals in all competitions while only conceding 19. Due to these fantastic mid-season results, this has allowed City’s youthful players to gain first-team experience.
Zinchenko has benefited most from this fantastic run, where the Ukrainian has featured more frequently in City’s domestic competitions than the likes of City’s young starlets Phil Foden and Brahim Diaz. Regarding the English Premier League, Zinchenko has appeared on the bench six times out of 19 matches, while Foden appeared four times and Diaz once. Also, Zinchenko was handed his first appearance in the Premier League ahead of Foden and Diaz.
Touré has been dropped for Zinchenko
In recent weeks, Guardiola also dropped veteran Yaya Touré for Zinchenko, demonstrating that the Catalonian will select players based on performance rather than status.
What is most intriguing is Zinchenko’s record in the Carabao Cup. Manchester City’s first game in the competition was against West Bromwich Albion, and while the Ukrainian was available off the bench, along with Foden, Diaz and Oluwatosin Adabioyo, Zinchenko did not feature in this match. The Ukrainian did, however, earn his first full senior debut against Wolverhampton Wanderers, where the match ended 4-1 on penalties after extra time. The competition’s quarter-final, where the Citizens faced Leicester City, also ended in a Citizen victory on penalties after extra time.
According to match reports of this competition, Zinchenko has fared well in the left-back position and is a viable replacement for Delph. Manchester City was then drawn to Bristol City for a two-legged semi-final, and given his recent appraisal, it is assumed Zinchenko will also play in these matches. Guardiola has also repeatedly claimed that the Ukrainian would not be sent out on loan in the January 2018 Transfer Window.
Overall, with hard work and a little bit of luck, Zinchenko is beginning to cement his place into Manchester City’s senior squad, and should City’s remarkable run continue, it is likely he will feature more prominently during the second half of the season. The Ukrainian has potential, and this could only be the beginning of a remarkable career.
Mark Temnycky is a Ukrainian-American who earned a Master of Public Administration and a Master of Arts in International Relations from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs in June 2017. He is pursuing a career in international relations and foreign policy. Follow Mark on Twitter @MTem33