‘It’ll click for Mykhailo Mudryk – he can prove Chelsea was right move’ – Joe Cole

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‘It’ll click for Mykhailo Mudryk – he can prove Chelsea was right move’ – Joe Cole

Within the space of just over an hour on Saturday evening, the contrasting fortunes of Mykhailo Mudryk and Leandro Trossard came under the spotlight once again.

Both were involved in important games for their clubs but their contributions made the highlight reel for different reasons. In the last minute of Chelsea’s FA Cup semi-final 1-0 defeat to Manchester City, Mudryk took a free kick from a dangerous position on the left and floated the ball over everyone’s head and out for a goal kick. Thiago Silva threw his arms up in despair and Chelsea fans headed for the exit. Their last chance of an equaliser was wasted.

Shortly after, Arsenal’s game at Wolves kicked off. It was a must-win Premier League match to lift them back to the top of the table and it was Trossard’s smart finish that put Mikel Arteta’s side on course for victory.

Trossard was Arsenal’s plan B in January 2023 after Chelsea beat them to the signing of Mudryk from Shakhtar Donetsk for an initial £62million ($77m at today’s exchange rate). Arsenal fans were not happy but many consider it a blessing in disguise. Bought from Brighton for a third of the price, the 29-year-old has 15 goals and 12 assists from 63 appearances, while Mudryk has just six goals and four assists from 52 games for Chelsea.

Mudryk, Chelsea and Arsenal…

Few Arsenal supporters will express regret over missing out on Mudryk, but former Chelsea attacker Joe Cole believes they will change their minds one day.

“I can see why Arsenal fans think that way now but maybe in the future they won’t,” he tells The Athletic. “Trossard has done a great job. He was brought in specifically to do what he is doing — but Mudryk could still end up being a better purchase. A lot will depend on how susceptible Mykhailo is to learning, developing and getting better.

“He has shown signs and glimpses. It is a huge jump to come from the Ukrainian league into the Premier League where the demands are (higher) and in a club which is not… it is not a stable time to be playing for Chelsea.”

Cole knows what it is like to join Chelsea when they are making a lot of signings, as the Todd Boehly-Clearlake consortium, which has spent over £1billion in less than two years, has done. The former England international was bought from West Ham for £6.6million during the first transfer splurge of the Roman Abramovich era in 2003. He was one of 11 acquisitions made in that summer window. Many more arrived and Cole took a while to establish himself.

Mudryk has gone through a similar experience. After being at Stamford Bridge for 14 months, he has made 25 starts and played 27 games as a substitute. But Cole concedes the 23-year-old’s task has been a lot tougher. “It was slightly different for me because there was not massive expectation. Even though I was a 21-year-old who had been captain at West Ham, Chelsea were a different animal. They could afford to drop me out of the side,” he says.

“I still had a lot of football but was used sparingly. I was sharing the pitch with Juan Sebastian Veron, Geremi, Damien Duff, Jesper Gronkjaer. I was allowed to find my feet. But Mudryk was brought in to make an impact straight away.

Cole was brought in alongside Veron in 2003 (Clive Rose/Getty Images)

“He is young and needs to be nurtured. He needs good players around him. I was lucky. When I came into the club there was Marcel Desailly, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Eidur Gudjohnsen. I already knew Frank Lampard and John Terry. I had played in the Premier League and so knew the rhythm.

“Mudryk is coming from a different country and a league miles apart in terms of the level. He needs to figure out what he can and can’t do. He has come into a team that is not fluid and he is also young. He needs to develop. What he could do in the Ukrainian league, it is not going to work over here. You have to be cuter with the movement.

“He is one of the players I look at and think, ‘I’d love to coach him’. There are so many things he can do better than what he is doing. It will click for him but he needs to sit down and really hone in on a few basics and that will make him a lot more effective.”

What would Cole like to see happen?

Well, there is a debate about Mudryk’s best position. He operates mostly on the left, but has looked threatening on the few occasions head coach Mauricio Pochettino has used him in the No 10 role. He could feature there on Tuesday evening against Arsenal at Emirates Stadium, especially with Cole Palmer rated doubtful due to a hamstring injury.

“I like to see him on either flank,” Cole says. “I would work on his movement off the ball, timing of the runs, understanding when to make the runs and who to run off. If Enzo Fernandez is on the ball and looking up, you go. Moises Caicedo is going to feed you more into the pocket.

“He is really trying and sometimes he just needs to relax, to be reminded he is a great player and concentrate on just two or three things for a game. Perhaps it is a case of the message being, ‘We don’t care if you score or assist but you need to be doing the right runs at the right time and believe if you keep doing those runs at the right time, good things will happen’.

Mykhaylo Mudryk

Cole believes things will click for Mudryk at Chelsea (Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

There is a train of thought that Mudryk would have made a bigger impact in English football had he joined Arsenal.

The north London club has been a far more serene environment to work in with Arteta being head coach there since 2019 (Chelsea have employed four permanent coaches in that time). Arsenal are challenging for the title for a second season in a row and have a settled squad. Chelsea are in danger of not qualifying for Europe for a second successive campaign with the majority of their squad having joined since 2022.

Cole, who won six major trophies at Stamford Bridge between 2003 and 2010, argues Mudryk’s decision to go to Chelsea could still prove the right one.

“It might have been easier to settle at Arsenal but if he is playing the long game and winning silverware is what you want to do, you would say Chelsea are the more likely to go on and win trophies because of what they have done over the last 20 years.

“It might not look like that now but Arsenal still have to make a jump. You have to win games like the Bayern Munich Champions League tie. Bayern Munich were on the floor. They can’t be knocking you out of the Champions League.

“The league is still there to be taken so it is crucial for Arsenal that they find a way to get over the line to become a winning team.



Arsenal’s failure to sign Mudryk and Caicedo felt damaging but has been a blessing in disguise

“At Chelsea, although it looks all over the place at the moment, there is something in the core and culture of the club where at any moment things can click into gear. No one would be surprised if Chelsea are back up there challenging and it will be almost like the last few years haven’t happened.

“I am sure there are people thinking Arsenal would have been a better option but that’s gone. It’s in the past. This is where he is and if he gets the right people working with him day to day, he can become a top player.”

Although their last chance to win any silverware this season disappeared at the weekend, Chelsea still have seven league fixtures, beginning with Arsenal, to qualify for Europe via a top-seven finish. They are ninth, just three points behind Newcastle in sixth.

“Getting European football will be crucial,” Cole said. “For players like Mudryk, playing in the Europa League or Conference League, you are going to get enough game time to stake your claim to be the manager’s choice come the end of the season.

“I would rule out sending him on loan. There is nothing he can’t learn at Chelsea but it’s on him. He has to take the lessons on board. The fans also need to back him. As long as Mudryk is working hard and showing good body language, the non-negotiables, the fans should get behind him because there is a player in there.”

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(Top photo: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)