Arsenal have stepped up their long-term interest in Oleksandr Zinchenko. The Gunners are now locked in talks with Manchester City over the Ukraine international, who has two years left to run on his contract at the Etihad Stadium.
Discussions are ongoing over the 25-year-old, who can operate in midfield or at left-back, and the Premier League champions are now expecting him to leave, although a fee has yet to be agreed.
City are believed to want around £35 million (€41m), but Arsenal are hoping to negotiate a lower price as talks continue.
The Gunners have already secured one deal with City this summer, signing Gabriel Jesus for £45m (€53m) earlier this month.
But why is Zinchenko such an appealing option for Mikel Arteta?
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An excellent option in midfield
Arsenal have been looking to bolster their midfield options this summer, with the club looking at bringing in someone who is comfortable playing on the left side of a central three.
That’s the role Granit Xhaka operated in during the second half of last season after Arteta switched to a 4-3-3 formation with Thomas Partey used as the sole holding midfielder.
Xhaka performed admirably, but playing as a No.8 is far from his favoured role, so Arsenal have been looking at strengthening in that department.
They have a long-standing interest in Youri Tielemans, while Lyon’s Lucas Paqueta is another player they have been looking at – but as of yet the club have not bid for either.
And Zinchenko’s potential arrival could be why, with the Ukraine star having shown how comfortable he is as an advanced midfielder role on numerous occasions, especially when in action for the national team.
This is something that is backed up by comments made by Pep Guardiola in April, when he was asked about Zinchenko’s best position.
“In the pockets as the attacking midfielder,” he said. “That is his position, definitely. When we brought Oleks from Ukraine, he was a No.10 – a Phil Foden position, a creative player.
“But the needs we had… We didn’t have a left-back for many years. Fabian Delph adapted incredibly well in that position and Oleks as well. That’s happened because he is well-educated, he knows exactly what it means.”
Quality cover for Tierney
Kieran Tierney’s injury issues cost Arsenal at the crucial stage of the season for a second successive year.
The Gunners brought in Nuno Tavares last summer to give them some natural cover for Tierney, but the young Portuguese star struggled at times after a promising start to life in North London.
So, when Tierney was ruled out for the final six weeks of the campaign, Arteta had to shuffle his pack once again, with Cedric Soares and Takehiro Tomiyasu being used on the left of defence at times.
That upset the natural balance of the side, just as it had done a year earlier when Grant Xhaka was used as cover when Tierney was ruled out for the final weeks of the season.
Arteta wants to avoid something similar happening during the coming campaign, so bringing in a top-quality option who can cover and compete with Tierney at left-back has been viewed as a priority.
But with the Argentine heading to Manchester United, the Gunners moved on to other targets and having worked closely with Zinchenko during his time at Manchester City, Arteta is well aware of the quality he can provide at left-back if needed.
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Allows Tavares to go on loan
Despite his struggles during the second half of last season, Tavares has plenty of suitors this summer.
Marseille are believed to be at the front of the chasing pack and have been in talks with Arsenal over a loan deal for the young left-back.
Arsenal would be willing to sanction such a deal, but only if they can get some more left-back cover through the door.
Zinchenko’s arrival would give them that cover and that would allow Tavares to go out and get the regular game time he needs next season.
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The winning mentality
Arsenal have already brought in one winner during the summer window, with Jesus arriving from City.
So, adding Zinchenko to the squad would only bring more winning mentality to a young group of players in north London.
The 25-year-old has enjoyed lots of success during his six-year spell at the Etihad, winning four Premier League titles, four League Cups and the FA Cup.
And whilst he may not have always been a regular starter under Guardiola, he was still a player who the Spaniard trusted implicitly.
“He is a reliable player,” Guardiola said when discussing Zinchenko in April. “He is focused, a guy who handles the pressure, otherwise he would not have played in the final of the Champions League.
“We rely on him a lot.”
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Premier League ready
Another big bonus about the potential arrival of Zinchenko is that he will be able to hit the ground running.
Having spent six years in England, there will be no time needed to adapt to the pace and the intensity of the Premier League.
He would of course have to settle into a new club, but that should not be much of a problem – especially having already worked with Arteta.
Arsenal are determined to start this season well, that’s why they pushed so hard to bring in Jesus so early in the window ahead of the pre-season tour to the United States.
And signing a player like Zinchenko, who is Premier League ready, will only help with that.
Technique and ability
Arteta wants to build a squad of technically gifted players at Arsenal.
One of the Spaniard’s biggest frustrations during his time in charge of the Gunners has been his team’s inability to be able to see games out by keeping possession and dominating territory.
The signing of Fabio Vieira will help with that, given the former Porto midfielder’s quality on the ball. And Zinchenko would only improve things further.
Asked during a recent interview who the most talented ball players were at Manchester City, Kyle Walker said: “My top three are Zinchenko, Riyad Mahrez and Bernardo Silva. Two touches, head tennis, so good.
"You're leaving De Bruyne out, Foden [and] Cancelo [too], but they don't come close to those three."
Those comments show how highly rated the Ukraine captain is at City.
He knows Arteta well
Just like Jesus, Zinchenko would not need any time to get to know his new manager should he make the move to Arsenal.
He worked closely with Arteta during the Spaniard’s time as Guardiola’s assistant at City and the pair are believed to have enjoyed a good working relationship.
So, he will fit in well and Arteta will know exactly what to expect from his new signing.
There will be no surprises which should allow the 25-year-old to settle in quickly and make an immediate impact in north London.