Oleksandr Zinchenko is building a stark case to be considered the biggest bargain signing of the Sheikh Mansour era.
Manchester City were in typically imperious form against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday evening and claimed a deserved 3-0 victory at the Etihad Stadium.
Ilkay Gundogan, the Premier League’s PFA Player of the Month for January, continued on his frightening run of goal scoring form with a second-half brace to steal the headlines and strengthen his case to rival Bruno Fernandes for the Player of the Season award.
It’s easy to forget about some of City’s less high-profile stars amid a run of form that has seen Gundogan, Bernardo Silva, Raheem Sterling and Joao Cancelo all playing somewhere close to optimum.
However, deployed on the left side of City’s defence and tasked with nullifying the threat of Erik Lamela, a player who had impressed in Spurs’ preceding fixtures against West Bromwich Albion and Everton, Zinchenko proved that he warrants individual praise of his own.
Those who predicted Zinchenko’s early success at left-back would eventually fade have been sorely mistaken.
His defensive weaknesses were there to be exploited when he first transitioned from attacking midfield, but increased exposure to the role and a desire to prove himself at the Etihad Stadium have enabled him to blossom into a trustworthy lieutenant under Guardiola.
Zinchenko’s technical quality has never been in doubt, but his physicality and defensive characteristics have long been up for debate.
Against Spurs, though, he recorded seven tackles and three clearances, which was more than any other player in City blue, while his playmaking qualities also came to the fore during an outing which was described as “superb” by the respected Citizens correspondent Sam Lee, per The Athletic.
Operating in an inverted full-back role, Zinchenko racked up a game-high 108 passes and boasted an accuracy of 93.5%.
Though City’s supposed left-back problem has been a dominant sub-plot for the best part of three-and-a-half years, performances like this may yet prevent the four-time Premier League champions from swooping for a new recruit in the summer window.
Since Zinchenko made his first league start of the season against Chelsea at the beginning of December, City have won nine games in a row and conceded just two goals.
He won’t get the same credit that John Stones, Ruben Dias and Cancelo receive, but that doesn’t mean he’s any less deserving of esteemed praise.
For the measly cost of just £1.8m, Zinchenko has proven to be a shrewd piece of business amid a wave of extortionate acquisitions that City have made in pursuit of dominance in English football.