Arsenal has settled the score with Manchester United in the ongoing season of the Premier League.
During the early days of the campaign, a resurgent Manchester United blazed past the Gunners with a thumping 3-1 victory at Old Trafford and Mikel Arteta took that personally. Fast forward to January 2023 and Arsenal has returned the favour to United with a revengeful 3-2 win at the Emirates Stadium.
In doing so, Arsenal has re-established a five-point lead at the top with a game in hand, leaving Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City to do the chasing once again.
However, the triumph against Red Devils has only confirmed what everyone knew of Arsenal’s dominance this season. Playing from the back, incessant pressing, and clinical finishing from their forwards; all these qualities were visible in the game against United.
Arteta’s system is working and the players he brought to the Emirates this season, which includes the likes of Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko, have surpassed expectations with their near-perfect performances.
The ex-Man City left-back, Zinchenko in particular, has been a dominant force in Arsenal’s campaign this season. A four-time Premier League champion, the Ukrainian surely brings a winning mentality to the team, but what has impressed many is his leadership qualities on and off the pitch.
Zinchenko was available for the post-match interview with Premier League productions after the game against United. The 26-year-old took this opportunity and drooped a few gems about Arsenal’s trail-blazing season and how they got here.
Except for the interviewer, Manchester United midfield legend, Paul Scholes and Arsenal’s veteran, Ian Wright, were present in the studio, listening to Zinchenko narrate why the team is in the best form of their lives under Arteta.
Scholes didn’t seem interested or impressed by Zinchenko (for obvious reasons) but Wright had to keep himself glued to his seat, and not fall out of excitement.
Although anyone watching would have understood that the Ukrainian was precise with his interpretation of the game and articulately broke down the strengths and weaknesses of his team. Here’s how he did it.
‘We have everything to achieve big things‘
Zinchenko’s transfer to Arsenal from Man City was a tremendous loss to Guardiola. He knew it then, but only now do we see what Guardiola meant when he praised Zinchenko for all those years of hard work at City.
After arriving at Emirates Stadium, Zinchenko mentioned he was aware of the impressive squad that Arsenal possessed but he saw the true worth of the squad when they took the field, when the entire team played together as a cohesive unit, firing on all cylinders and raising the tempo with every game.
“To be honest, when I had just arrived, the quality I saw …obviously I knew the Arsenal team, I knew all of them before, but still I realized on the pitch we have everything to achieve big things,” Zinchenko told Premier League TV.
Reading between the lines, one can see that the Ukrainian left-back is extremely overjoyed at the prospect of playing with a dynamic squad that breathes fire whenever they take the pitch.
‘We don’t look that far’
It’s still a long road ahead for the Gunners. There are still 19 games left to play in the Premier League and the momentum could sway.
“But still there’s a lot of games to play and now you can see Manchester United is back. City, as always, is there. Let’s see what is going to happen, but we need to move step by step.”
The honourable part of the interview is Zinchenko’s humility. He knows that there is still room for improvement and yet no time to fail. Even though Arsenal is in top-notch form but he understands the threat that a winning behemoth like Manchester City poses. And given United’s recent improved performances and hunger to win, the Ukrainian is wary of another threat making its way from Old Trafford to disrupt proceedings for the Gunners.
‘Desire is the key’
Zinchenko was clear on one thing in the post-match interview — Arsenal has to do something extra and by extra, he means developing an edge over his opponents in crucial fixtures. Winning the close duels on the pitch, constant pressure to choke the enemy for space, and make them regret that they ever faced Gunners in this season.
The Arsenal left-back wants ‘desire’ to win at any cost to be the driving force for his team, even if it means a sacrifice of personal agendas for the greater good.
After hearing this, Ian Wright, who was listening intently and quietly for a long jumped in and said, “I’m so happy that you [Zinchenko] are at Arsenal.” The Ukrainian’s desire to win was truly infectious.
‘No one is laughing now’
“I started to speak in the dressing room, saying: ‘Guys, forget top three or whatever, we need to think about the title.’ Some of them were laughing but no one is laughing now and all of us are dreaming.”
This statement proves that Zinchenko is a dreamer, and especially a dreamer, who is swimming in self-belief. It’s a quality of a genuine leader who has vision and direction for his side but is also someone willing to take the risks.
Maybe his confidence stems from his days at Manchester City, but Zinchenko is hell-bent on making Arsenal champions and no one should laugh about that, not even his enemies.
Here’s that post-match interview clip which shows Zinchenko’s vision for Arsenal:
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