'Do you have Van Persie's number?' - How Arsenal fanboy Zinchenko took English lessons from Frimpong in Russia

Oleksandr Zinchenko Arsenal 2022-23Getty
  • Ukraine international spent time with Ufa
  • Secured a move to Manchester City
  • Now on the Gunners' books

WHAT HAPPENED? Emmanuel Frimpong, who is something of a cult hero at Emirates Stadium despite making just 16 appearances for the north London heavyweights, crossed paths with Zinchenko at Russian outfit Ufa back in 2015. The Ukraine international would depart for Manchester City a year later, by which time he had worked on his game as a versatile full-back and midfield option while also perfecting his English – with Frimpong taking on teaching duties there.

WHAT THEY SAID: Former Ghana international Frimpong, who stepped out of Arsenal’s academy system in 2011, told GOAL of how he came to be a tutor for Zinchenko: “It came about when I was playing in Russia, for a team called Ufa in the Premier League in Russia, and Zinchenko came over from Ukraine. He came over to train with us and they decided to sign him. He found out that I was over from England, he knew I spoke good English, and he asked me if I could teach him English. I thought that maybe he just wanted to learn, not knowing that he was already heading to England and needed somebody to teach him English. We used to have one or two lessons at home, and also on the pitch. I would like to think that I helped him because he was speaking very good English before he came over to England.”

AND WHAT'S MORE: Frimpong added when asked if Zinchenko was a good pupil: “He is very smart. He catches on to things very fast and I think we had about 10 lessons and he was good. He already some of the stuff that he wanted me to teach him, and I did that. He was very grateful to me for that because he used to come over and let me teach him. Zinchenko, I always knew that he was going to be a top player. I just thought he needed to bulk up, and after five or 10 years he is still looking a bit slim. I don’t think he is ever going to put weight on massively. He has really improved and I’m very happy that he’s performing for Arsenal because he used to love Arsenal, a big fan of Arsene Wenger.”

THE BIGGER PICTURE: Zinchenko has stated on a regular basis since joining Arsenal from City as a four-time Premier League title winner that the Gunners were always his favourite team growing up, with Frimpong revealing that the Ukrainian acted like a fanboy at times. He said of being quizzed about Arsenal: “He knew who I was so he used to come over and say ‘wow, you used to play for Arsenal, do you have Van Persie’s number, Fabregas’ number?’ It was those questions that fans would normally ask footballers. Zinchenko was asking me questions at the time like a fan, rather than a team-mate. He loves Arsenal. Every time he used to talk to me, it was always Arsenal-related. It’s no surprise that he is playing for them because he loves Arsenal to bits.”


Oleksandr Zinchenko Arsenal 2022-23Getty

Frimpong Arsenal

WHAT NEXT? Zinchenko now forms part of an Arsenal squad that sit five points clear at the top of the Premier League table, offering him a shot at earning another winners’ medal, with Frimpong - whose correct score tip is for the Gunners to beat Everton 2-1 on Saturday - convinced that they can taste success with their current playing and coaching staffs. He added: “The squad that Arsenal have, they shouldn’t be anywhere near first place this season. If you look at teams like Manchester City and Chelsea, they have a better squad, so that just shows you the job that Mikel Arteta and Edu are doing. It’s a miracle. The fans need to trust what they are doing because they have been given no reason not to trust them. Jorginho and [Leandro] Trossard coming into the team, it’s a good mix of experience and youth.”