Advertisement

Arsenal: Oleksandr Zinchenko a concern but Mikel Arteta keeping the faith for now

Oleksandr Zinchenko showcased the best and worst of himself during Arsenal's win over Wolves.

In attack, the Ukrainian was excellent, providing the assist for what turned out to be the winning goal. After playing a one-two with Gabriel Jesus, Zinchenko threaded the ball through a sea of bodies to find Martin Odegaard inside the penalty area.

It was one of 74 passes the left-back made on Saturday — and no player could match his completion rate of 95 per cent.

For all the joy he brought in attack, though, Zinchenko was at fault for Wolves's late goal — which made for a nervy finish.

The 26-year-old was caught in possession inside his own box and Matheus Cunha profited to make Arsenal sweat for a 2-1 win, which means they are now two points clear at the top of the Premier League.

Oleksandr Zinchenko could be dropped for tougher tests (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
Oleksandr Zinchenko could be dropped for tougher tests (Arsenal FC via Getty Images)

That is the risk Arsenal run with Zinchenko, who for all his attacking brilliance is capable of defensive errors.

He has transformed the way the Gunners play since joining over a year ago, with his ability to tuck into midfield allowing Mikel Arteta's side to dominate possession.

But if it comes at the cost of defensive solidity, then it leaves the Arsenal boss with a decision to make, especially with far tougher tests on the horizon.

Arsenal travel to high-flying Aston Villa this Saturday, while they have a trip to Anfield on December 23. The Gunners will also host Liverpool in the FA Cup third round at the start of next month, after they were paired together in yesterday's draw.

Arteta could easily field Takehiro Tomiyasu at left-back for those games, as the Japan international's form has been so impressive he is keeping Ben White out of the team on the other flank.

Tomiyasu is an excellent defender, and arguably Arsenal's best in one-on-one situations, but in possession he cannot match Zinchenko. Few can, and the dilemma for Arteta is whether the benefits outweigh the risks — but for now the Spaniard is happy to play him.

"You have to love him, how he is, every player as well," he said. "He has strengths and weaknesses — and he has got many more strengths.

"This [mistake] happened, it can happen to any player, we have to learn from it, because in those areas it's a big no to play, especially after certain things on the previous phrase, and that's it, we will get better."