Is Arsen Zakharyan ready for a big move to the Europe’s Elite? – scout report
Arsen Zakharyan is a 19-year-old Russian playmaker, who has been used in a large variety of roles during his time at Dynamo Moscow. He was on the verge of a move to the Premier League, but his transfer to Chelsea fell through in the latter stages of the transfer window. It is hard to buy a player from a Russian club, as sending money is not permitted due to current circumstances, and there is little else that can be done when a player is contracted to a club.
While the transfer has been complicated, Zakharyan has recently spoken to the media where he still persists that he wants to join Chelsea, and will be patient while the deal continues to be worked on. He has also attracted interest from the likes of West Ham, who will be keen on the player should Chelsea pull out of the deal.
In his third season in senior football, Zakharyan continues to shine with 2 goals and 5 assists in 14 games, where he will look to continue his streak of winning the fans’ Player of the Season award at Dynamo Moscow, after already winning it twice in his first two seasons for the club.
This tactical analysis will come in the form of a scout report to show what makes Arsen Zakharyan stand out, and why the fans love him already. The analysis will highlight the skills he possesses that make him such a valuable player for his team, and how his skillset may translate to the tactics in different potential systems.
Zakharyan is a very versatile player. He has the characteristics of an interior, the ability to create, carry and control the ball in central areas amongst other skills. As a result of his excellent technical skills, he belongs in central areas from where he can cause havoc for opposing teams from either half-space. However, his excellent output of goals and assists for Dynamo Moscow has resulted in him often playing in more advanced areas where he can produce effective performances when playing against weaker opposition.
This is clear in both the maps below. On the left, his heat map shows his ability to play in either half-space while also having the energy and awareness to track back into his own half when necessary. On the map on the right, we can see that the young Russian is equally comfortable playing on either side of the pitch, while also being able to play a supporting role in midfield or an attacking role in the last line equally effectively. In an era where there are more subs made each game, and where managers shift formations constantly, Zakharyan’s versatility makes him an interesting watch for scouts worldwide.
Below we can see Zakharyan’s ball-carrying from central areas come to life. This map shows how effective the teenager is when driving with the ball from central areas, although from his recent games, he has struggled to show variety in his runs. As a 6-foot-tall central player, it makes sense that Zakharyan is very good at bursting through central areas, where his long strides allow him to carry the ball over long distances and glide past his opponents, although this has also meant that we haven’t seen him attempt some different, more challenging dribbles.
He has proved that in transition, it is extremely hard to catch him, however, he hasn’t displayed elite close control or dribbling skills through ball manipulation in tight spaces when he has come up against a low block.
We can see in the map below, that the majority of Zakharyan’s penetrating carries start off around 20 yards away from the box, which highlights his impressive ball carrying over long distances, but the number of pink arrows that start near the 18-yard box is very low and put his dribbling skills into question. He has been inconsistent and unreliable in situations around the 18-yard box.
The Russian teenager’s biggest asset, and what has attracted the attention of clubs like Chelsea is his impressive passing and vision in the final third. Arsen Zakharyan has displayed numerous different ways of unlocking a low block, while he is still in only his third season as a professional footballer in senior football.
The map below shows us that in 14 starts, Zakharyan has managed to get 4.6 xA, where he averages 0.32 xA per game. While a number of these shot assists are from corners, there are also a variety of shot assists from all over the map, further highlighting just how comfortable he is in all the different zones in the final third.
Part of what makes Zakharyan so good at unlocking opposition defences is his vision and incisiveness in and around the box. The playmaker already knows the pass he will make before the ball is played into him, thanks to his scanning of the pitch which allows him to identify his teammate in open space in the opposition box. Zakharyan then play a first-time pass into the striker’s feet, who drifted back to an onside position and got a shot off at goal.
The willingness to break lines so close to the opponent’s goal is what makes Zakharyan such a creative force, and a brave, ambitious passer in the final third.
Another trick that Zakharyan has up his sleeve is the use of a variety of techniques to progress the ball. Having the ability to use different parts of your foot, and to successfully accomplish these actions, allows you to stay unpredictable, whilst being able to affect play at different angles compared to the majority of other players.
In the example below, we can see the teenager use the outside of his boot to curl the ball into his teammate’s path while the ball is only on for a right-footed pass. What makes this move even more special is the patience of Zakharyan to hold on to the ball, which attracts the defender to press him which opens up space in behind for the pass. Had Zakharyan rushed the pass as many others do, the defender would still have been in position and ready to intercept the pass. Forcing the defender to engage can reap huge rewards as long as the pass is executed to perfection.
Yet another weapon in Zakharyan’s armoury is the use of reverse passes. A reverse pass is one where the pass is played in the opposite direction in which the ball carrier is moving. While defenders shuffle to one side, moving in the same direction as the attacker as he cuts inside, the ball is played back across where they came from. This pass is hard to intercept as defenders are unable to stop the momentum of moving one way, so they can’t suddenly change direction and block the pass.
The image below shows the example of Zakharyan using this passing method to play a teammate through on goal, although the strike is aimed straight at the goalkeeper. The attacker has moved into the defender’s blind side, so he is completely unaware of the threat and therefore can’t intercept the pass.
Partly the reason behind Zakharyan’s ability to play on either side is his ability to use both feet effectively. Whilst Zakharyan lacks the ball striking on his weak foot, his ability to place accuracy on his balls with either foot remains, which allows him to be a creative force all over the pitch. This example below shows how the Russian teenager has placed a superb weak-footed cross to the back post, where his teammate has an unopposed header from inside the six-yard box.
This floated cross method was used very effectively, as the trajectory of the ball gave the striker enough time to arrive at the back post, as a more drilled cross would be too quick for the striker to run onto the end off.
The final part of Zakharyan’s impressive creative threat is his ability to whip crosses in. Later in the article, we will go into more detail on Zakharyan’s ability to strike through the ball, but this skill also means that he can deliver dangerous crosses that only require a small flick to end up as goals.
As shown by the image below, Arsen Zakharyan has the ability to whip a dangerous ball into the box, from a dead ball. He can kick a ball with a devastating amount of power, which makes it hard to block or get to the end of for both defenders and attackers, however, the slightest flick is usually enough to result in a goal as goalkeepers have no time to react to these sorts of strikes.
The Dynamo Moscow playmaker has also produced these whipped crosses from the right half-space, almost like Kevin de Bruyne. The whip on the ball from the right side makes it so that keepers never dare to come out to try and claim it as there is the chance of it going too quickly past them. Furthermore, Zakharyan’s ability to make the ball dip allows these crosses to end up on the floor by the back post, from where a late runner simply has to direct the ball into the back of the net with their foot, rather than actually striking through the ball, as it has enough pace from the cross already.
Instep Ball Striking
The final skill that makes Zakharyan so impressive for his age is his ball striking which makes him a threat anywhere in the final third. As shown below by the shot map, Zakharyan only ever shoots from outside the box or just on the edge. This is not uncommon for players who aim to dictate attacks by playing slightly deeper. However, this causes massive problems for opponents as they quickly have to close down the teenager due to his shooting ability from long range.
Arsen Zakharyan uses the instep of his boot to powerfully whip both crosses and shots into the far post. While the method of striking stays the same, his consistent ability to put so much pace and precision into his strikes makes him a threat when he is around the box. Below, the image displays his shooting ability, as he whips the ball into the top corner, but the pace and late dip of the strike leave the keeper rooted to his spot, as the shot looks like it’s going off target.
This goalscoring threat, especially from the left makes Zakharyan a massive danger from slightly deeper areas, which further shows that he belongs in the role of an interior, rather than an attacking winger looking to beat the fullback every time.
This tactical analysis has shown just how dangerous of a player Zakharyan can be. The Russian’s ball striking makes him a great final-third creator and shooter, although his ability in tight spaces can be questioned. At an elite club like Chelsea, his skillset can be extremely helpful in breaking down low blocks from deep, although he needs to improve his skills in tight areas if he were to fit into Chelsea’s current system. There is a possibility the system changes again, which could be of benefit to the 19-year-old who performs best when he is facing the opposition goal.
His best role seems to be an #8 in a 4-3-3, where he has plenty of runners ahead of him, so he can pick those runners out, while he also can stay in deeper areas to hide his inability to beat players in tight spaces.
In the second phase, Zakharyan could definitely avoid pressure by making use of his ball carrying over long distances, where his dribbling would seem brilliant. His ball striking for both passing and shooting is a tool that could and should be looked at by some of the bigger clubs around Europe.