Forget Nketiah and Saka: Arsenal’s “world-class” 88-touch “monster” just destroyed Man Utd
With a thrilling late win over Manchester United on Sunday night, Arsenal passed their toughest test yet and maintained their lead in the Premier League rankings.
Manchester City crushed Wolverhampton Wanderers earlier in the day to put pressure on Mikel Arteta’s men, clinching all three points after falling behind to secure a five-point lead over the defending champions.
And the Spaniard has Eddie Nketiah to thank for his match-winning goal in the 90th minute, having already scored the Gunners’ first goal – the first equalizer – either side of Bukayo Saka’s magnificent angled shot.
But there were many heroes on the pitch at the Emirates Stadium, including some who may not get as much praise, such as versatile left-back Oleksandr Zinchenko, who was practically playing as an additional central midfielder for the majority of the second half.
He not only came back to win his duels, but almost every play went via him, finally resulting to the aforementioned three-point-snatching conclusion.
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In what ESPNUK editor David Cartlidge called as a “phenomenal” and “monster of a performance,” the Ukraine star – who cost Arsenal only £32 million in the summer – led the way with 85 touches, the most of any player on the game, emphasizing how important he was to the eventual result.
With that possession, he provided 57 accurate passes (88%), one of which was a significant chance created, while also doing some strong and outstanding defensive tasks, living up to the’monster’ nickname, with two tackles, two interceptions, and one clearance.
Meanwhile, Zinchenko’s heatmap was remarkable, with him occupying a regular spot as a left-sided attacking midfielder, demonstrating not only how much influence he had but also how Arsenal had the Red Devils camped in their own box for much of the game, with the £150k-per-week star at the forefront of the action.
There were simply not enough superlatives to characterize his performance, which ranged from “unreal” from Simon Collings of the Evening Standard to “really remarkable” from Rank Squad podcaster Jack Collins.
Freddie Paxton, a Guardian and Times journalist, also waxed poetic, adding, “Alex Zinchenko. He was constantly conversing with his teammates. Getting the audience going. Never hides, master of ball retention. “EXTREMELY GOOD.”
Indeed, Zinchenko was the real star of the show as the Gunners registered what could be a very poignant victory at a crucial time in the season. If the 26-year-old continues to perform and lead like that, then he’ll no doubt be lifting the Premier League trophy come May.