Manchester City supporters have been reasonably satisfied in recent times after seeing their team maintain their unbeaten start to the Premier League season at the weekend.
Pep Guardiola’s men went into their trip to fellow title rivals Liverpool sat at the summit of the table having won six and drawn the other of their opening seven league matches, sitting above Jurgen Klopp’s Reds on goal difference ahead of their meeting at Anfield. And the two sides played out a somewhat surprising 0-0 draw on Merseyside to leave both teams unbeaten in the top-flight this term, with a title battle between the two looking likely as the season progresses.
Thus, there have been many satisfied City fans up and down the country in recent times, several of whom were expecting Oleksandr Zinchenko to perhaps got the nod at left back at Anfield on Sunday following the recent injury concerns surrounding Benjamin Mendy.
And while the Ukraine international is not a left back by trade, most of his Citizens appearances have come in that position, which suggests that 24-year-old Mendy is the man holding the key to the youngster’s future at the Etihad Stadium.
Ultimately, £13.5 million-rated Zinchenko (as per Transfermarkt) made the move to the North West outfit back in 2016 after a short spell at Russian side Ufa, but he has since gone on to make just 16 senior appearances for Guardiola’s side, 14 of which coming last term in the Citizens’ run to the Premier League title and indeed Carabao Cup success.
Interestingly, 15 of those 16 appearances for Zinchenko in the City first team have come at left back, with the other at wing back – this all despite joining the club as a central midfielder little over two years ago.
But with Guardiola spoilt for choice in that area of the park, the 21-year-old was always likely to struggle for regular football in his more natural position, prompting the City chief to try him at left back last term following the early-season injury to Mendy.
And with the France international also missing a short time earlier this season through injury, Zinchenko was again given an opportunity at left back against Brighton in the Premier League, in which he very much produced the goods in a hugely attacking and encouraging display.
Thus, it appears that the Ukrainian is only likely to play in Guardiola’s side if and when Mendy is unavailable for selection – he did at times last term in the Frenchman’s absence, and has occasionally done so this time round as well.
And in deputising well against Brighton there last month, alongside several solid showings at left back last season, the 21-year-old appears to be moulding into a very accomplished full back – and with Guardiola not possessing another natural left back as back-up to Mendy, Zinchenko is one of a few players who he has and will likely continue to call upon.
Add in Mendy’s seemingly regular injury concerns, be it spending the majority of last season out with a knee problem alongside a few weeks of this term with a foot injury, and Zinchenko may well get chances in Guardiola’s side down that left-hand-side – but that spot appears to represent his only chance of regular football.
As such, it seems that the 21-year-old’s future at Man City, and thus the amount of game time he gets under Guardiola, depends greatly, and perhaps entirely, on the form and fitness of 24-year-old Mendy.
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