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Arsenal’s “massive” Hale End teen could force Zinchenko into a new role

Arsenal have emerged from the interminable dog days and now fight for illustrious success under Mikel Arteta‘s wing, having come agonisingly close to the Premier League title last season and currently topping the table at present.

While the Spanish manager has married the implementation of his vision on the pitch with astute business on the transfer front, Arsenal’s ever-reliable Hale End academy has been an integral part of the framework.

Most Valuable Players in the World



Market Value

Erling Haaland

Manchester City


Vinicius Jr.

Real Madrid


Kylian Mbappe

Paris Saint-Germain


Bukayo Saka



Jude Bellingham

Real Madrid



Real Madrid


*Sourced via CIES Football Observatory

Indeed, amid star-studded confreres, Bukayo Saka is arguably the Gunners’ most important player and is valued among the most valuable players in world football – with six goals and nine assists already this term underscoring his importance.

The 22-year-old winger graduated from the academy to earn his place among the finest around, with Emile Smith Rowe also enjoying an impressive rise before injury derailed his progress.

There’s a whole host of potential awaiting a promotion to Arteta’s senior set-up, and while the squad has not looked this good in some time, it’s a testament to Mehmet Ali and Jack Wilshere’s work with the development squad that there are so many options good enough to burst onto the scene. Another looking to make a breakthrough is teenager Lino Sousa.

Lino Sousa’s career in numbers

Sousa, aged 18, is one of Arsenal’s most promising youngsters and has been lauded as “outstanding” by former youth coach Kevin Betsy for his seamless integration into life at Hale End.

Signing for Arsenal from West Bromwich Albion in January 2022 when he was 17-years-old, Sousa has now completed 49 appearances for the London side’s various youth teams, clinching five goals and three assists in the process.

This season, the Lisbon-born dynamo has scored three goals from just 11 appearances across all competitions, including a decisive strike against Swindon Town in the EFL Trophy – a match that the young Gunners won on penalties.

As per Sofascore, the teenage full-back was effective during the display, complementing his strike with an 82% pass success rate, one clearance and success in 50% of his contested duels.

Speaking to the Arsecast Podcast, journalist James McNicholas was full of belief that the marauding starlet could wedge his way into Arteta’s plans, saying: “The other one who’s a massive talent is Lino Sousa, who’s really well thought of and potentially there is actually a gap in the squad at left-back.

“He’s 18 years old, the boy at [Manchester] City Rico Lewis has come in and done a terrific job and he’s 18 as well. I do think the club really highly of Lino Sousa and see him as a first-team player potentially one day.”

Oleksandr Zinchenko is key to Arsenal’s efforts and is among the most creative and fluid full-backs in Europe, but with Kieran Tierney shipped out on loan to Real Sociedad and Nuno Tavares handed to Nottingham Forest on a season-long deal, McNicholas’ words may well ring true.

The eight-cap England U19 international might have a tough task in relegating Zinchenko to the bench, but should his impressive performances keep up then the Arsenal bosses could be faced with something of a quandary on their hands, though one that would be welcomed with open arms.

Oleksandr Zinchenko’s style of play

Arsenal signed Zinchenko from Premier League juggernauts Manchester City in July 2022 for £32m, with the dynamic Ukrainian star only starting ten matches in the top flight during his final campaign at the Etihad Stadium.

The 58-cap international ranks among the top 4% for pass completion, the top 2% for passes attempted and the top 1% for progressive passes per 90, as per FBref, emphasising the level of creative distribution within Zinchenko’s power.

Zinchenko is the full package, creative, industrious and inspiring, with the £150k-per-week ace’s displays even leading the likes of reporter Connor Humm to remark on how he appears “everywhere” on the pitch when on his a-game.

As the player’s heat map portrays – via Sofascore – the 25-year-old is quite the ubiquitous presence down the left channel and often finds a home in the opposition’s half, where his 1.1 key passes per game and crisp 90% pass completion rate really shine through.

Zinchenko heat map

Technically, Zinchenko is not a natural full-back and was actually shifted into the placement by Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, playing in central midfield almost exclusively for his nation, and Arteta could now start fielding him further infield to accommodate the rise of Sousa.

Given that Thomas Partey is expected to be sidelined until after the new year – with his future at the club in doubt too – Zinchenko could now cement a spot in the centre, and given that he boasts a 68% tackle success rate in the Premier League this term (higher than William Saliba) such a tactical tweak really could provide benefits for the Gunners.

Oleksandr Zinchenko: Similar Full-backs



Jules Kounde


Trent Alexander-Arnold


Giovanni Di Lorenzo


Kyle Walker

Manchester City

Andy Robertson


*Sourced via Football Transfers

Arsenal insider Jeorge Bird has been among those to sing Sousa’s praises and made these comments on the player’s potential, writing: ‘An England youth international, Sousa has demonstrated his versatility for Arsenal U18s, featuring as a left wing-back and also as a left-sided centre-back in a three man defence.

Wherever he has been deployed Sousa has shown that he is very composed in possession, with his playing style seeming somewhat reminiscent of Ainsley Maitland-Niles at youth level. Sousa relishes pushing forward but also doesn’t shirk his defensive responsibilities.’


Clearly a player of attacking strength but maintaining a solid base simultaneously, the 18-year-old was an unused substitute in Arsenal’s 3-0 victory over Brentford last season and looks poised for a first-team debut sooner rather than later.

Especially given that Ali – speaking to The Athletic – remarked: “Lino is a player who is very comfortable on the ball, because of that we sometimes give him licence to come inside to get the ball to feet and then try and serve (the ball in) effective and dangerous areas.”

This certainly feels similar to Zinchenko and is exactly what Arteta will look for in a young full-back, and Arsenal must now make room for the latest Hale End prodigy to enter the fray and make his mark.

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