Arsenal, who are now leading the table and came agonisingly close to winning the Premier League last season, have moved past the endless dog days and are now vying for legendary triumph under Mikel Arteta’s tutelage.
Arsenal’s dependable Hale End academy has been a crucial component of the system, even though the Spanish manager has combined the on-field execution of his vision with clever transfer strategy.
Globally Most Valuable Players
City of Manchester
*CIES Football Observatory as a source
In fact, Bukayo Saka—who has already contributed six goals and nine assists this season—is regarded as one of the most useful players in international football and is undoubtedly the most crucial player for the Gunners among their star-studded lineup.
The 22-year-old winger excelled in the academy and gained recognition as one of the best players, while Emile Smith Rowe also experienced a remarkable ascent before an injury halted his growth.
A lot of talent is waiting to be promoted to Arteta’s senior squad, and even if the team hasn’t looked this strong in a while, Mehmet Ali and Jack Wilshere’s work with the development group is responsible for the abundance of players who are ready to make an impact. Teenager Lino Sousa is another aiming for success.
The career of Lino Sousa in numbers
Sousa, 18, is one of Arsenal’s most promising young players. Former youth coach Kevin Betsy called him “outstanding” for adjusting to life at Hale End so easily.
Sousa, who joined Arsenal from West Bromwich Albion in January 2022 at the age of 17, has made 49 appearances for the London team’s minor levels, scoring five goals and providing three assists.
The Lisbon native’s goal against Swindon Town in the EFL Trophy, which the young Gunners won on penalties, was among his three goals this season from just 11 appearances in all competitions.
Sofascore reports that the young full-back performed well during the game, supporting his goal with an 82% pass completion percentage, one clearing, and 50% of his contested duels won.
Journalist James McNicholas expressed his optimism that the roving starlet could find a way into Arteta’s plans while speaking to the Arsecast Podcast. He stated: “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.”
Rico Lewis, a lad at [Manchester] City, is eighteen years old, and he has come in and done an amazing job. I do believe Lino Sousa is held in great regard by the team and that he may eventually be a first-team player.”
Oleksandr Zinchenko, one of the most inventive and versatile full-backs in Europe, is essential to Arsenal’s attempts, but McNicholas’ comments may hold true given that Kieran Tierney was sent on loan to Real Sociedad and Nuno Tavares was given a season-long contract with Nottingham Forest.
The eight-cap England U19 international may have a difficult time pushing Zinchenko to the sidelines, but if his outstanding performances continue, the Arsenal managers may find themselves in a difficult situation—one that they would gladly welcome.
The way Oleksandr Zinchenko plays
Zinchenko, a dynamic Ukrainian player, only started ten games in the top tier during his final season at the Etihad Stadium after joining Arsenal for £32 million in July 2022 from Premier League powerhouse Manchester City.
Zinchenko’s innovative distribution is seen in his ranking among the top 4% for pass completion, the top 2% for passes attempted, and the top 1% for progressive passes per 90, according to FBref.
Zinchenko is the complete package—creative, diligent, and motivating—and his performances have earned praise from reporters such as Connor Humm, who noted that when he is doing well, he seems to be “everywhere” on the pitch. Zinchenko earns £150,000 per week.
The 25-year-old is a constant presence down the left channel and frequently settles inside the opposition’s half, where his clean 90% pass completion percentage and 1.1 critical passes per game truly show through, as the player’s heat map from Sofascore illustrates.
Although Zinchenko is technically not a full-back and was moved into the position by Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, he plays nearly entirely in central midfield for his country. Arteta can now start fielding Zinchenko farther infield to accommodate Sousa’s ascension.
Zinchenko could now lock down a spot in the centre, and since Thomas Partey is expected to be out until after the new year—with his future at the club also in doubt—he could benefit greatly from such a tactical change. Zinchenko leads the Premier League in tackle success rate this season with 68%, better than William Saliba.
Oleksandr Zinchenko: Comparable back-row players
Trent Arnold Alexander
Giovanni Di Lorenzo
City of Manchester
*Taken from Football Transfers.
‘An England youth international, Sousa has demonstrated his versatility for Arsenal U18s, featuring as a left wing-back and also as a left-sided center-back in a three man defence,’ wrote Arsenal insider Jeorge Bird, one of many who have praised Sousa and commented on the player’s potential.
Sousa has demonstrated his ability to remain collected under pressure wherever he has been used, and his style of play has been likened to that of Ainsley Maitland-Niles during his childhood. While Sousa enjoys attacking, he also takes his defensive duties seriously.
Preparing for a first-team debut sooner rather than later, the 18-year-old was an unutilized substitute in Arsenal’s 3-0 triumph over Brentford last season. He is clearly an offensive player who also maintains a strong base.
Particularly considering that Ali said, in an interview with The Athletic, “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. Lino is a player who is very comfortable on the ball.”
This feels a lot like Zinchenko, and it’s exactly what Arteta will be looking for in a young full-back. Arsenal now needs to make place for the newest Hale End star to enter the competition and establish himself.