Analysing the latest Chelsea signing, one of the hottest names in football
Who is Mykhailo Mudryk?
Mykhailo Mudryk is one of Europe’s form attackers so far this season, having already contributed to 16 goals in just as many 90s across the league and Champions League for Shakhtar Donetsk. He is also one of the hottest names in football too, not least because of links to Premier League clubs.
After seemingly being set to move to table-topping Arsenal, Chelsea barged in to hijack the transfer. They agreed a total fee of £89 million, including add-ons, to steal the Ukrainian attacker away from their London rivals.
With a wealth of attackers alreaady at the club, and another batch coming into the squad, the question is what the winger can bring to the table.
Mykhailo Mudryk's style of play
Igor Jovićević is one of a crop of current coaches that emphasise control through possession, with his Shakhtar side functioning not too dissimilarly to that of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City and Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal, for example. That much has helped get the best out Mudryk this season.
The attacker is not a high-volume contributor on the ball, but his understanding of the system eliminates this as being a problem. In fact, it means he often has the most telling impact on a game despite going prolonged periods without having much involvement. This is something that’s been seen at Champions League level.
Whether he’s out on the touchline or inside, between the lines, Mudryk’s range and weight of touch is very impressive. He’s often ball-facing as a way of facilitating safe circulation but has the balance, change of direction and quality to cushion the ball in a way that sets it toward goal perfectly.
Out wide, he brings his weaker left foot more into play in order to give himself a platform to spring into space using his right foot. Furthermore, on the switch of play, his ability to take the ball down – often with the outside of his right boot – is effortless, and he loves to take the ball in his stride.
What hurts him in these situations is occasional looseness and blind spots in awareness. Particularly in deep areas, at the start of transitions, Mudryk always wants to turn and face forward to be proactive, but without scanning his surroundings widely enough or often enough, he’s guilty of turning into trouble when holding up the ball or overrunning it because he hasn’t thought ahead.
His dribbling is another facet that is, for the most part, very strong. The way he centres himself over the ball – using little outside-of-the-boot touches – keeps defenders retreating at a pace that he can dictate. He has the intelligence to drive in a direction that pins space for himself or team-mates, has the willingness to go inside or outside, and has more than enough pace to confidently drive through gaps.
A lack of protection he affords to the ball can hold him back sometimes, though, since he doesn’t use his left leg well enough to shield from pressure. He has a hard time managing that due to his lack of physicality. Also, his weight of touch can go amiss in extended dribbles over space, which can unravel a lot of the hard work done to get there.
Furthermore, Mudryk doesn’t always convert these into dangerous contributions as often as he should. When running at a defender, he has the ability to release the ball very quickly but he rarely lifts his head. His default move is to cut in and play the short layoff across to the edge of the box, no matter the situation ahead.
This is not to say there’s a low ceiling on Mudryk’s creative potential, though, because his operation speed is exceptional. When he knows what’s ahead of him, he’s so quick to process information and adjust the ball in order to release it. That lack of awareness is the biggest barrier and is one that is hard to overcome.
There is, however, a lot more upside to the way he can deliver a ball into the area. It’s little wonder that he’s the nominated set-piece taker because he can provide so much variety to his crosses whilst accurately finding team-mates. It’s only from closer range where he lacks the surgical incision to deftly pick out specific team-mates.
As for being a goal threat, while the 22-year-old is often the provider when it comes to final-third attacks, the timing and persistence of his runs into space is impeccable. When you throw his lightning quick speed into the mix, it’s almost a given that at some point in a match, he will get in behind over the shoulder of an opposition defender.
Finishing is still a rough aspect to Mudryk’s game, though. The inside of the boot is what he uses most, and low to the corners is where he aims for most, but these efforts can lack precision. He doesn’t create as many opportunities for himself as he could, either. The power and awkward dip he can generate when not finding a corner can still be too much of a handful for goalkeepers, though, which is why he is into double figures for the season.
Defending is easily the weakest part of the Ukrainian’s game. There isn’t a lot of good to say about him in any phase of play as his intensity dips to the bare minimum, barring the occasional sprint to get out or get back goal-side.
Unsurprisingly, his technical approach is usually one that is easy to bypass because he maintains quite a narrow body shape and has a tendency to overcommit, which makes anticipating give-and-gos and avoiding needless fouls – and subsequent bookings – difficult.
His positioning and awareness within the defensive block is more alarming. He very rarely scans, and that’s when he’s back in a defensive line close to the central midfielders, which isn’t always the case. Playing through the gap between him and the full-back, especially to find an overloading runner, is a viable route into the box.
Forecasting Mykhailo Mudryk's future
Mudryk’s ability to have such a consistent impact on matches, regardless of the level and his team’s performance, is a standout quality among many of the technical upsides which back it up.
Even as a low-volume attacker, he looks suited to be a key cog in a big possession team, be it as a touchline or inside attacker. What could hurt that transition up the leagues is where Chelsea’s level is at as a unit in comparison to Shakhtar, and also the change in standard of opposition.
Whilst the defensive work rate could be a reasonable aspect to improve, for the Ukrainian to be a success, he will still need to be afforded those same levels of protection that have so far helped curb issues regarding awareness and physical duels. Improving his awareness and technical consistency would unlock some of that impressive operation speed even further, too.
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Mykhailo Mudryk is an incredibly fast, forward-thinking attacker who can be a thorn in any team’s side, with the technical ability and potential to be a lethal goal contributor at the top level.
Mykhailo Mudryk is a player who has gaping holes in his awareness that can limit his decision-making going forwards, and isn’t naturally an efficient or hard-working defender.