Oleksandr Zinchenko's Peculiar Role
5 min read

Oleksandr Zinchenko's Peculiar Role

Oleksandr Zinchenko's Peculiar Role

On a recent Arsenal Vision Podcast, Elliot made the comment that he challenges anyone to accurately describe the position that Oleksandr Zinchenko is playing for Arsenal.

The short answer is that he is playing full back. That is where he is being put on the team sheets that are being put out and if you asked Mikel Arteta I am 99% certain that is the answer that he would give you.

However, I think that misses the point and does not address the question of what is his role actually with Arsenal so far this season.

As a starting point for this discussion, I thought it would be interesting to see how he looked on The Athletic's new role-based system to put players into different buckets.

Introducing The Athletic’s 18 player roles: Orchestrator, Safety or Unlocker?
What if instead of positions we had a more detailed, tactical way to describe what footballers do? Here’s our unique set of 18 player roles

I asked John Muller who did the work to create these roles if he could look up where Zinchenko ended up on his stats (this is based on his Manchester City numbers). Zinchenko was a player that didn't fit neatly into a role and surprisingly to me he ended up as a "safety".

Image courtesy of John Muller @johnspacemuller of The Athletic

The next logical question is what is a "safety" and thankfully there is a good description of the role in The Athletic article.

Safety: Stays home, getting involved in the defensive third while not taking many risks on or off the ball. Includes hybrid center-backs or elbow backs. Example players for this role are Benjamin Pavard, Timothy Castagne, and Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

I am not sure that this is a perfect description but it isn't wrong per se either. I think this really helps illustrate that describing what Zinchenko does is hard. Looking at his first three matches for Arsenal and it almost looks like he had three different (but similar) roles.

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