Oleksandr Zinchenko: City's underrated left-back continues to improve

CITY'S SILENT ASSASSIN?

Premier League leaders Manchester City made it five wins from five on Saturday after a narrow 1-0 victory against an out of form Bournemouth side. Pep Guardiola's reigning champions clinched all three points thanks to a 55th minute goal from substitute Riyad Mahrez at the Vitality Stadium, once again reinstating their position at the top of the division ahead of Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool, who lie just a point behind in second following a disappointing goalless draw with rivals Everton on Sunday afternoon.

The Cityzens have once again been emphatic this term; Sergio Aguero currently tops the pile in the goalscoring charts having notched 18 league goals thus far, while the form of Raheem Sterling, Bernardo Silva and the returning Kevin de Bruyne is also giving fans of the club plenty to smile about.

It is however one of the teams more seldomly used players that has got people talking in recent weeks - 22-year-old left-back Oleksandr Zinchenko. The Ukraine international has stepped in as cover for the injured Benjamin Mendy, Fabian Delph and now Aymeric Laporte this week, and has impressed each time he's been called upon.

Zinchenko's record for City makes for great reading if you're a Sky Blues fan; of the 32 appearances he's made for the Etihad outfit, he's accrued an astonishing 30 wins, losing only once (a 2-1 defeat to Basel in last season's Champions League). He was also part of the side that drew 2-2 with Lyon in the UCL earlier this season.

The young full-back has shown maturity beyond his years when thrusted into first team action, with Pep Guardiola saying that he is "definitely important to us" following Saturday's win over Bournemouth.

The 47-year-old added: "Oleks was committed, smart, intelligent and he understands everything - he has incredible quality," which begs the question, why are City in for a new left-back this summer? Before this weekend's clash with the Cherries, Guardiola confirmed that he wishes to bring in reinforcements in that area of the pitch due to the injury-ridden Mendy struggling to remain fit following the serious knee injury he sustained last season.

ZINCHENKO'S STATS MAKE FOR POSITIVE READING

Zinchenko's recent performances against Chelsea in last weekend's League Cup final and West Ham & Bournemouth in the Premier League this week proves exactly why there are much worse things Pep could do than give the Ukrainian an opportunity as first choice left-back next term.

Of the 18 tackles he attempted throughout those three games, 12 were successful. He registered the most interceptions out of anyone on the pitch against the Blues at Wembley (8), while also finishing first/joint first against both West Ham and Bournemouth (two interceptions on both occasions).

Offensively, Zinchenko has been just as impressive. The young defender has averaged 128 touches and 115 passes throughout City's previous three fixtures this week, ranking him within the top two players on the pitch in both of the above mentioned categories. Out of those passing stats, Zinchenko has contributed three key passes, alongside 14 long passes - showing exactly how influential he has been in the final third.

With nine league games remaining, City can't afford for their performance levels to drop. The injuries to players like Laporte and Mendy would have worried Guardiola, however in Zinchenko they have a humble footballer who just wants to prove himself at the Etihad, and he's doing a great job of it so far.

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