For football fans from around the globe, one of the most exciting moments of any given season is that in which a homegrown talent emerges from the academy. You can only imagine the excitement, then, at Dinamo Moscow when Arsen Zakharyan emerged from their academy. The youngster of Armenian parentage but Russian birth, however, is more than just the next talented young Russian player to emerge. He has the potential and the ceiling to become a generational talent for the Russian national team going forward.
His potential and ability were immediately evident when he made his breakthrough for the first team at Dynamo. He made his debut in November 2020 and by February 2021 he was a part of the regular first-team setup at the club. Such was the young attacker’s impact on the team, he was voted by the fans as the player of the season at the end of the 2020/21 campaign. His incredible form also saw him called up to the Russian national team squad before the 2020 European Championship, although a bout of tonsillitis meant that he had to withdraw prior to the tournament starting,
This was only a minor setback, however, and at the start of September 2021, he made his full national team debut against Croatia as he became the youngest outfield player to ever appear for the senior Russian national team. The young attacker looks set to be a regular part of the national team setup at Russia for well over the next decade.
Zakharyan is an attacking player who tends to play wide on the left for club and country. He is naturally right-footed and he plays very much in the modern style of attacking players who start wide before drifting inside to occupy spaces in the half-spaces or even the central areas. Zakharyan is a flexible and capable attacking player. He is comfortable carrying the ball with the ability to go inside or outside the opposition defender and when moving at speed, he retains the ability to make the right choice in terms of releasing the ball when shooting from range or finding creative passing angles to find a route into the penalty area.
In this scout report, we will give a more robust report on the player and his strengths going forward.
Here, you can see the data profile for Zakharyan so far this season. As you can see, he has played 679 minutes in the Russian top-flight so far this season and his percentile ranks (which rank his performance against all other wingers in the Russian Premier League with over 250 minutes) are very impressive across the board.
If we take his attacking performances first of all, then he paints an interesting picture as a wide attacker. He is only averaging 3.84 dribbles per 90 and this shows that he is a wide attacker who is more likely to receive and then look to play in quick interchanges with players around him. He does, however, impress in the attacking section when it comes to shots per 90, 3.65, and touches in the opposition area per 90—3.05. These show that when Zakharyan does receive and play the ball into teammates, he then naturally moves into more advanced areas to get a shot at goal or occupy a dangerous position in the penalty area.
His passing performances are also impressive for a wide attacker. 7.29 progressive passes per 90 and 4.24 passes to the penalty area per 90 show that he can drop to receive the ball in deeper areas before turning and moving the ball forward into more dangerous areas. He is not a wide attacker who stays consistently high and instead he will drop into areas that allow him to receive deeper to help with the construction of the attacking phase. In the final third, Zakharyan is also a creative threat. He averages 3.31 passes to the opposition penalty area and 1.19 key passes per 90. He also registers impressive assist numbers with 0.27 assists per 90 from 0.32 expected assists per 90.
While Zakharyan very much profiles as a modern wide attacker, I believe that he could easily transition to play as an 8 or as a 10 in central areas. I would also argue that as he continues to develop, he could play comfortably as a second striker.
As a wide player, we have already shown that Zakharyan is not necessarily a volume dribbler of the ball. He is, however, extremely effective when knowing where and how to dribble the ball in order to take advantage of space within the opposition structure. While he is predominantly right-footed and he prefers to attack on that side, he is comfortable and capable on his left side. He is versatile enough to be able to receive on either foot before shifting the ball and attacking the space in the opposition attacking structure.
While he does not have what we would consider top-level pace, he does have excellent balance and timing when moving in possession of the ball
In this example, we see Zakharyan in action for the Russian national side where he is positioned wide on the left as his side are attacking. When the ball moves to Zakharyan, he immediately has options with a runner just inside him making a diagonal run to break the opposition defensive line.
From this position and in this situation, there are a number of possibilities for the young attacker. He can carry the ball on the outside of the defender or he can attack inside into the pocket of space between four opposition players. Then, of course, he has the option of finding a pass that releases the runner into space.
In this case, he moves inside to attack the pocket of space. In doing so, he automatically pulls opposition players towards the ball and creates space in the final third that teammates can take advantage of.
In moments of transition, Zakharyan has a tendency to stay in higher areas of the pitch. This allows him to receive the ball in space as his side move forward into the attacking phase. We see an example of this here where Zacharyan displays the same ability that great attacking players have to always seem to be in space to receive the ball and then attack the opposition.
Here, the young Russian attacker receives just inside the opposition half but he has naturally drifted into a huge pocket of space between the lines of the opposition. As he receives in this position, he can then turn and attack the space at ease.
One of Zakharyan’s biggest strengths is his ability to find creative passing solutions when moving into dangerous areas with the ball. It is a mark of the trust that his teammates have in him that they are comfortable trusting him with possession when he drops back to receive the ball deep in the build-up phase. This is reflected in his data for progressive passes and passes to the final third.
What really impresses when watching him play, however, is his ability to find creative passes while moving at pace across the field. His vision and appreciation of space allow him to access key spaces in the final third and in the penalty area
We see this in this example as Zakharyan takes possession of the ball, this time in the half-space. The player ahead of him is making a run off and towards the wide area in order to create width but Zakharyan uses this run as a decoy and attacks inside to the area in front of the penalty area.
From this position, the young Russian poses a significant goal threat and he can also access all areas of the penalty area.
In this specific example, as Zakharyan attacks inside towards the penalty area, he is moving at speed and at an angle in order to create separation from the opposition defender.
As he moves deeper, the forward that is highlighted makes a delayed run in order to access the space behind the defensive line. Despite moving at an angle away from the run and at pace, Zakharyan is still able to make the pass that breaks the defensive line and releases the forward.
A similar situation here, although this time the angle of the run in relation to the pass is even more extreme. As Zakharyan takes possession of the ball, he then starts moving directly across the pitch. In this example, there are five players between the ball and the opposition penalty area but even moving at the angle that he is, the attacker is still able to read the movement of the forward to break the defensive line.
His vision and pitch awareness is excellent but so is his ability to execute the pass and find the correct weight and line of pass to release the player moving into advanced spaces. Here, we see Zakharyan moving at an angle before finding the through pass that outplays five opposition players and releases the runner through and into the penalty area.
Arsen Zakharyan is one of the most talented teenagers in World football and he has now firmly established himself as a key player at club level and a regular starter at the international level. At the time of writing, there are reports that the young attacker is being closely watched by the likes of Barcelona and Chelsea and links such as these are likely to only continue as he gains more experience at first-team level and takes steps towards reaching his true potential.