• Joe Donnohue

From the Handbook: Viktor Tsygankov

This profile was originally published in the Scouted Football Handbook: Volume I, our first print publication published in February 2019. The print version has sold out, but you can buy the digital copy – for the price of a coffee or pint – here. It's well worth a lockdown read.


CAREER IN REVIEW


Viktor Tsygankov made his Dynamo Kyiv debut in August 2016 at home to FC Stal Kamianske in the Ukrainian Premier League, and over the past two-and-a-half years, has hardly been out of the side since. More than 100 appearances in all competitions for Kyiv, 11 Ukraine caps and a back-catalogue of admirers later and it can quite easily be said that Tsygankov is currently one of the golden boys of football in Eastern Europe.


Already versed in the ways of the Europa League and to a lesser extent the Champions League, Tsygankov has cut his teeth at the highest level so far, but not on a consistent basis. Week by week in the league however, he has regularly shown why he has rapidly risen to the summit of Ukrainian football in such a short space of time.

Viktor Tsgyankov completed more key passes (17) during the 2018/19 UEFA Europa League group stage than any other player under the age of 23

The old adage of letting your feet do the talking can be applied to Tsygankov, who has already captained Kyiv ten times this season in both league and European fixtures. He leads by example, and doubtless there will be few of a Dynamo Kyiv persuasion that will have too many complaints about a 21-year-old winger captaining the club when he performs as he does on a weekly basis.


Despite only turning 21 in November, the archetypal leader is an abrasive, all-action, vocal, pitbull-like character, marshalling the team from the centre of the pitch. Tsygankov – a right-winger – does not need to play up to these long-held conventions. Instead, his skill commands the respect of his peers, regardless of seniority.


STYLE OF PLAY


The first and most important thing you need to know about Viktor Tsygankov is that his set-piece delivery is superb. What is even more amazing is the number of goals that Dynamo Kyiv score from Tsygankov’s deliveries. The Ukrainian international is, simply put, a specialist from dead-ball situations. He can drill his free-kicks, almost in knuckle-ball fashion – as seen against Karpaty Lviv in December 2018 – but he can also place them and most dangerously, he can delicately loft them into the path of an onrushing team-mate.


Likewise, it can be said that Tsygankov already has a trademark corner routine. They are whipped with his brilliant left foot towards the near post, before swinging outwards towards the dreaded corridor of uncertainty between the penalty spot and the six-yard box. They are the type of corners that defenders hate to come up against. Defend too heavily towards the front post and he’ll lift it over to the edge of the box. Defend too deep towards the back post and it’s game over, with plenty of Kyiv players gleefully on-hand to glance the ball home at the front. His set-piece delivery is exquisite and the sheer volume of assists he has garnered from these situations for Kyiv is evidently no coincidence.

James Williams, AMA, Getty Images

He is far from one-dimensional, though. He is left-footed, but starts predominantly on the right. From there, Tsygankov loves to make late runs into the opposition penalty area, darting from the by-line, through the right-hand channel and into the box. He exploits the pace he has at his disposal excellently. He is quick, but not exclusively in the sense that all he has is raw speed. He is intelligent and knows where to position himself at crucial times. His haul in his past two Europa League campaigns in a handful of appearances is no fluke.


One instance stood out during Dynamo Kyiv’s Europa League campaign this year. It was in a game away to FC Astana; plastic pitch, bitterly cold, the type of game your prima donna winger does not quite fancy. Instead, Tsygankov was fabulous in that game. His pressing of the opposition was incessant at times, but also co-ordinated with the rest of the team. He did not waste time expending too much energy, dropped deep on occasion to receive the ball and was vital in the only goal of the game which ensured Kyiv left with the three points and progressed to the knockout rounds. Benjamin Verbić’s goal was all Tsygankov’s doing; moving into midfield to pick up the ball, before motoring forward into space in the right-hand channel. There was very little on, but after laying the ball off to a team-mate he was on the move again, positioning himself between Astana’s midfield and defensive line, checking his shoulder for opposition pressure and gauging how much time he would have should he receive the ball.


Receive the ball he did, and with a deft, back-heeled flick, played through Verbić to score. He had no right to take on something as audacious as that, in a game which had been largely tight up to that point, but he had the intuition to consider it, and the skill to execute it.


As an outlet, Tsygankov is excellent. Often found by a long, raking cross-field pass on the right, he is routinely the furthest player forward during these phases of play, particularly when up against a high defensive line. Given the space to run in behind, he can be devastating. Moreover, he is just as capable at finishing chances as he is at creating them. He has poise and a coolness that one would not associate with a player being chased down by multiple defenders – that is, if they can catch him.


FORECAST FOR THE FUTURE


At 21, Tsygankov is comfortably one of, if not the best player in the Ukrainian Premier League. There is no doubt that his career trajectory will take him to the opposite end of the continent and the heady heights of the UEFA Champions League.

Dynamo’s talisman is at the peak of his powers in his home country, and remaining until near the end of his current contract in 2023 would be a tremendous waste. His current ability indicates that he is more than able to cut his teeth in one of Europe’s top five leagues. He is supremely talented and it is exciting to think that he may well get even better under the tutelage of one of Europe’s first-rate coaches.

Scouted Football Handbook: Volume VI has arrived. Buy your copy here.


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