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Mikel Arteta opens up on the Xhaka-Zinchenko left side partnership in the wake of Arsenal’s 3-0 win

The Ukrainian international has helped breathe new life into the team, with Swiss veteran Granit Xhaka benefitting immensely since his arrival

Arsenal has continued their strong start to the 2022-23 Premier League campaign with a consummate 3-0 win away at Bournemouth, putting the Gunners top of the table to put bookends on Saturday’s fixtures.

A brace by club captain Martin Ødegaard and a wonder goal from William Saliba were more than enough to see Mikel Arteta’s troops make it three wins in three to headline their hot start to the new campaign in what lies in stark contrast to last season’s opening exchanges that netted the polar opposite result.

One of the key factors to the start of the season has undoubtedly been the arrival of Ukrainian international and former Manchester City utility specialist Oleksandr Zinchenko.

The former Shakhtar Donetsk academy graduate and former Citizen under Pep Guardiola were already familiar to Arteta when the current Arsenal chief spent three years on Guardiola’s coaching staff before his arrival at the Emirates, and when the need came for the Gunners to secure an upgrade at left-back, Arteta knew just the man for the job.

Thus far, Zinchenko has not disappointed while looking as assured as ever and quite comfortable in his tasks already with three starts under his belt this season.

But his presence in the match day XI means so much more than an upgrade on Kieran Tierney, but more importantly, it has breathed new life into Arsenal’s phase of play down the left-hand side, which has massively benefitted Swiss veteran midfielder and former club captain Granit Xhaka.

Thus far this season, Xhaka has been an increasingly important presence in the final third for Arsenal in a manner that has not been seen before from the Basel native, with the Swiss midfielder regularly getting into positions in and around the area to become an even greater offensive threat than many Gunners supporters are accustomed to seeing from the soon-to-be 30-year-old.

His lay-off assist for Saliba’s curling effort speaks to that fact by itself and could ring in a sign of things to come all season long, with Zinchenko offering an understanding of his role that seems to eclipse Tierney’s given the level of intelligence and ability to read the game not only on and off the ball, but when Arsenal are both in possession but also on the prowl defensively.

As such, Xhaka is now operating in a manner that will appear far more familiar to those that are avid Bundesliga followers, particularly Borussia Mönchengladbach supporters.

During his four years at Gladbach, Xhaka was a massive contributing factor in the middle and final thirds for Die Fohlen and offered a goal threat from outside the area and a sampling of creative control that has long been scuppered at Arsenal given the persistent need for the presence of a deeper midfielder.

This led to many fans misdiagnosing his player profile as that of a holding midfielder when he was neither that for Gladbach nor Switzerland, even after his arrival in north London.

With the reprisal of Xhaka’s former role in Germany, Arsenal has an added dimension under Arteta thanks to the capture of Zinchenko that could offer a continued dynamic this season that may quietly contribute to the club’s hopeful securing of Champions League football next season.


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Andrew Thompson

US-based Football writer. German football guru with a wealth of experience in youth development and analysis. Data aficionado. Happily championing the notion that Americans have a knowledgeable voice in the beautiful game.

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