By Connor Holden

23 years of age, just 65 senior appearances before a highly publicised big-money move to Chelsea, and already the Blues number 10, it has been a rollercoaster few years for Mykhailo Mudryk.

The Ukrainian Speedster was tipped by Roberto De Zerbi to have “the potential to win the Ballon d’Or”, and was therefore hot property before his move to the Premier League, culminating in a fierce bidding war between Chelsea and Arsenal. 

But why hasn’t Mudryk shown his highest quality thus far? What are the key components the winger needs to excel, and what environment would nurture his talent best?

Mudryk’s main and most obvious strength is his sheer speed, acceleration and power. Wesley Fofana once said of Mudryk “He’s faster than Kylian Mbappe”—some praise. And fairly accurate – Mykhailo Mudryk and Kylian Mbappe have both been clocked at a staggering 37 KM/H in competitive fixtures.

The Ukrainian has an asset that can’t really be coached. Increasing speed is of course possible, but the level of pace and power he possesses, mixed with that acceleration off the spot – his 0 to 100 – and it is clearly a star quality.

This mixture of speed/acceleration and agility allows Mudryk to be an effective ball carrier, posting 4.86 progressive carries per 90, 3.82 carries into the final third, and 4.99 take-on attempts per 90. These all placing him in the highest echelon of Europe’s elite dribblers.

Stats courtesy of fbref – comparison against wingers in top 5 European Leagues

However his main weakness is something that automatically stifles his ability to complete the actions he excels at, and this is his understanding of positioning.

The Ukrainian has only played 110 senior games –  A full 19 fewer than Jeremy Doku, over a year younger. Mudryk’s 45 appearances for Chelsea being his most for a single club thus far, this has sparked the debate that due to his inexperience in senior football, is Mykhailo Mudryk tactically inept?

He often finds himself completing one action and not knowing where to position himself after that action, with Chelsea teammates often having to point him into positions to receive the ball. This not only creates frustration amongst the players but also the fans.

This could be down to a variety of factors. Is Pochettino coaching him these fundamentals such as positioning? Does he struggle to retain tactical information? Or is he just simply behind in his development due to his atypical pathway between youth and senior levels, playing far fewer games, and being under-coached for that reason?

The answer to those questions isn’t clear, but rather than dwell on unanswerable questions, let’s take a look at how a different system, a more hands-on approach and a stricter positional style may suit Mykhailo Mudryk.

To best utilise the raw skillset Mudryk has, his best chances will come from being within a system that requires fewer, but KEY actions.

An example of this is a coach that isolates their wingers 1v1, putting them into positions to make key decisive actions in the final third. Whether that be beating their man and delivering a cross, or cutting inside and taking a shot. Being put in these positions at a high percentage gives these types of players the chance to express themselves and do what they do best.

The position in the image above shows Jackson in a wide 1v1 isolation. This is the exact area Mudryk wants to occupy, giving him the chance to drive into the final third/the box. From here, he has the capacity to go either way, using his pace to drive past the defender to the byline and deliver a cross, or cutting inside once closer to the box, and getting a shot off.

By giving Mudryk more 1v1 isolations in wide spaces, his decisions are more precise. He can progress the ball with a progressive carry, beat his man, or deliver the final ball, whether that’s a cross or cutting inside to shoot.

Mudryk has a high level of ball striking, quality technique with the ability to shoot with power and accuracy. This is the same for his crossing, taking set pieces and playing progressive passes, due to his technical ability on the ball.

However he has often found himself “lost” as many fans have noticed, where he doesn’t look comfortable and isn’t able to produce the key decisive final third actions, and therefore his confidence goes down. Not a good cycle to be in.

These 1v1 type wingers thrive off of confidence, their actions are riskier and have more chances for error. In a hostile environment, these players can quickly diminish, losing confidence and resorting to safer passes, taking away the effective edge they were so highly touted for.

So in many ways, it’s easy to see why the current state of Chelsea isn’t ideal for Mudryk. Fans getting on his back for every wrong action – even if he is trying the right things to impact a game. This then leads to compounding mistakes. Mix this with his lack of senior experience, and therefore his lack of understanding on the pitch, it’s hard for him to begin to regain that confidence.

This is why a more structured positional system, in which Mudryk is strictly given instructions to produce final third actions, play with confidence, and express himself, could very well lead to a revitalised player.

Roberto De Zerbi may have to wait some time before his “Ballon d’Or potential” assessment is justified, but Mykhailo Mudryk has bags of time to improve, and only continues to grow with experience and exposure to top-level football.

He may yet become the talent that many believed he would be.