In their desperate bid to reinforce central defence this January transfer window, Arsenal look like they’ve turned their attentions towards Shakhtar Donetsk’s Mykola Matviyenko.

Rated at £30m by Shakhtar, the Gunners are eager to broker a loan deal with an obligation to buy at the end of the season for the 23-year-old. Arsenal don’t boast significant funds this window, so paying an initial £4.5m loan fee with the remainder of the sum in the summer is far more suited to the club’s current financial situation.

Those are all the ​latest developments surrounding the deal but, more importantly, just who is the defender?

He’s clearly fancied by Mikel Arteta, and just because he isn’t one of the Dayot Upamecano’s or Samuel Umtiti’s of this world, doesn’t mean he won’t fit the bill. Either way, he’s become a target this window, so there must be something about him that caught the Spaniard’s gaze.

Here’s are five things you should know about the ​Arsenal target.


He’s…Creative?

Shakhtar Donetsk v Chelsea FC - UEFA Youth League Final

​​Firstly, yes he is playing in the Ukrainian Premier League and for the team streets ahead of everyone else, but that isn’t to say his influence must be taken with a large pinch of salt.

Remarkably, in all competitions this season, Matviyenko has made 26 key passes in 35 games this season. He’s great at breaking up play, which means when his side are in an attacking transition he’s in a position to build counterattacks. But still, for a central defender to make 26 key passes in 25 matches is very impressive. Granted, the number of those that resulted in a goal is not known, but he’s having the right impact at both ends of the pitch, it seems.


He’s a Regular Fixture For the National Side

Mykola Matviyenko

Since making his debut back in 2017, Matviyenko has gone on to make 20 appearances for Ukraine, most notably performing superbly during his nation’s Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.

In fact, he formed one half of a rock-solid central defensive partnership that conceded just four goals on their way to topping their group ahead of second-placed Portugal. Along with Italy, they had the joint-second best defensive record of all the sides involved, conceding just four goals in their eight qualifying matches.

As it stands, Matviyenko will be taking on the Netherlands and Austria in their confirmed group in the summer’s competition – with a fourth team still to be decided – in what will be his first major international tournament.


Versatility

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Although he’s made his living playing on the left side of central defence, Matviyenko is also equally capable of slotting in at left-back, or even defensive midfield.

He’s played both positions in the past, probably partly due to being shorter than your average centre-half. Standing at under six feet tall, Matviyenko is a more mobile defender who is faster getting around the pitch as opposed to the more traditional towering central defender who is strong in the air.

Equally, his powerful left foot and excellent passing range sees him adept in central midfield. It’s a position he’s played as a result of injuries and suspensions in the past, so he is no stranger to it and loves playing on the front foot, something that sees him never shy away from a crunching tackle.


His Reading of the Game is His Best Asset

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Something that has become commonplace with the Arsenal defenders is their remarkable ability to be unaware to incoming danger. Whether it is a player running in behind them or losing their marker from a set piece, it’s cost the Gunners plenty of goals over recent years.

​Which is probably why Arteta is very keen on Matviyenko. He’s always aware of his surroundings, rarely gets caught out and is masterful at reading where a pass is going and intercepting accordingly.

He averaged almost three interceptions per game in the Champions League this season (WhoScored), with an extra 88.7% pass accuracy – all traits which would fit swimmingly into Arteta’s new-look side.


Arteta Courted Him For Manchester City

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This move has not come out of the blue. No, this has been one in the offing for the last two years, however, one ​Manchester City were looking to make, not Arsenal.

Indeed, during his spell as assistant coach in the north west, Arteta was supremely keen on bringing the Ukrainian defender in, potentially as another option instead of Aymeric Laporte, who they signed two years ago this month. He also got to see him in person this season, watching on as City played Shakhtar twice in their Champions League group stage clashes.

Even after that there was still a keen interest in the 23-year-old centre-back, and that interest has carried over to his new role at Arsenal. City are in need of defensive cover themselves and are yet to address Vincent Kompany’s exit, but the return of Laporte from injury may just open the door for Arsenal to pounce ahead of their ​Premier League rivals.


For more from Ross Kennerley, follow him on Twitter!  

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