Arsenal passed their biggest test yet and maintained control at the top of the Premier League standings with a dramatic late victory over Manchester United on Sunday night.
Manchester City thrashed Wolverhampton Wanderers earlier in the day to put the pressure on Mikel Arteta’s men, clinching all three points after going behind, to secure a five-point cushion from the second-placed defending champions.
And the Spaniard has Eddie Nketiah to thank after his match-winner in the 90th minute, having already bagged the Gunners’ first goal – the initial equaliser – either side of Bukayo Saka’s lovely angled strike.
But there were many heroes on the pitch at the Emirates Stadium, perhaps some that won’t get as much credit, such as versatile left-back Oleksandr Zinchenko, who was practically playing as an additional central midfielder for the majority of the second half.
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Not only did he get back to win his duels but practically every bit of play ran through him, eventually leading to that aforementioned three-point-snatching climax.
In what was described as a “phenomenal” and “monster of a performance” by ESPNUK editor David Cartlidge, the Ukraine star – who cost Arsenal only £32m in the summer – led the way with 85 touches, which was the most of any player on the pitch and thus, emphasises just how crucial he was to the end result.
With that possession, he provided 57 accurate passes (88%), of which one was a key chance created, whilst he also did some resolute and impressive defensive duties – living up to that ‘monster’ tag – as he registered two tackles, two interceptions and one clearance, via Sofascore.
Meanwhile, Zinchenko’s heatmap was remarkable, pretty much occupying a regular spot as a left-sided attacking midfielder, which not only shows how much influence he had but how Arsenal had the Red Devils camped in their own box for a good portion of the match, with the £150k-per-week star at the forefront of the action.
Guardian and Times journalist Freddie Paxton also waxed lyrical, adding: “Alex Zinchenko. Constantly talking to his teammates. Geeing up the crowd. Never hides, master of keeping the ball. WORLD CLASS.”
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.
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