“Seeing Mudryk for ten minutes, I wouldn’t like to play against him” - Those were the words of Man United legend Gary Neville after Mudryk’s cameo debut against Liverpool. Before we delve into what the youngster brings to Chelsea, let’s take a look at his journey to the top.
Mykhaylo Mudryk was born in January 2001 to Petrovych Mudryk and Nikolaevna Mudryk in Krasnohrad, Ukraine. He is one of two children born to his parents; his elder sibling is named Tatyana. Mudryk was raised alongside his sister in Krasnohrad.
Mudryk comes from a religious family. This is seen in how they managed his fear of darkness that led to nightmares. Mudryk’s grandmother helped him get over this issue by giving him a picture of ‘Guardian angel Michael” which she embroidered with her own hands. He said “Then she told me: When you lie down, say: In the name of the Father, and the son, and the holy spirit. Amen. Then cross yourself, go to sleep and never be afraid again.”
Mudryk can now be seen with several religious tattoos.
Mudryk fell in love with the game of football at a very young age. Most times, the youngster would play football all day with friends on the streets of Krasnohrad. This worried his mom as he missed meals and only returned home at night to drink water.
Mudryk learned the proper basics of the game when he joined Kharkiv Metalist Academy 2010 and stayed till 2014. After four years there, he felt he needed a higher level of competition to get better. This birthed a move to join Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk. Mudryk quickly rose through the youth ranks at his new home, and his undeniable ability attracted the interest of Shakhtar Donetsk who signed him in 2016.
In a bid to get more playing time and experience at senior level, Mudryk joined Arsenal Kyiv on loan in 2018. He made ten appearances, starting in six of them before returning to Shakhtar in the summer of 2019.
On his return to Shakhtar, he was deemed not yet good enough for the senior team, therefore, he was shipped to the club’s reserve team Shakhtar II. Still determined to prove himself and become one of the best in the world, Mudryk accepted a loan transfer to Desna on the 6th of August 2020. He would go on to make ten appearances, starting in eight of those before returning the Shakhtar II after six months.
On his return, he had just one thing on his mind, to prove himself worthy of a place in Shakhtar’s senior team. Mudryk finally got that long-anticipated call up under the guidance of 58-year-old Luis Castro. Unfortunately, playing opportunities were scarce for Mudryk under the Portuguese manager.
Prospects took a turn for the better when Shakhtar appointed Italian manager Roberto De Zerbi as head coach in 2021. On joining the club, one of the first decisions De Zerbi made was to request Mudryk’s recall from loan. De Zerbi had a one-on-one meeting with where he asked, “Do you become a player with me, or will you not be a football player?”
So great was De Zerbi’s belief in Mudryk’s ability that he said, “If I do not bring Mudryk to a high level, I will consider that a personal defeat on my side.”
From that moment on, it has been a case of steady rise and vast improvements in every area of his play within a short time.
What to expect
Standing at 1.75m, Mudryk is a lightning quick winger adept at getting past defenders with relative ease. Mudryk’s biggest strength is his speed. His ability to go from 0-100 in the blink of an eye is akin to that of Kylian Mbappe. The rate at which he switches tempo from fast to slow and then to fast again often leaves defenders playing catch up.
As shown above, Mudryk recorded the quickest speed of the Premier League campaign in just his debut appearance for the Blues. His control of pace often forces defenders either to overcommit rashly or leave him with too much space when he’s in possession of the ball.
Last season, his average of 10 dribbles per game and close to 50% success rate was one of the highest in the Ukraine Premier League. He also averaged 3.7 progressive carries per game, an impressive number for a youngster with just over 60 senior appearances at club level.
Mudryk might find the most joy when Chelsea faces attacking teams. His pace is crucial in turning defense into lightning attack — Think Mo Salah’s early days at Liverpool. While Shakhtar played possession-based football domestically, they relinquished possession in the Champions League and focused more on breaking quickly. Even though the club failed to advance past the group stage, Mudryk showed how effective he could be on the counterattack.
None was more impressive than his performance against reigning Champion League winners Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. Mudryk’s breathtaking performance that night saw him join the likes of Ronaldinho, Iniesta, Maradona, and Del Piero as one of the few players from opposition teams to receive a standing ovation from rarely impressed Real Madrid fans.
Mudryk got the better of Dani Carvajal and Casemiro on the night. His ability to drop into spaces in the middle of the field to receive passes and turn quickly left Casemiro chasing shadows or fouling him. His quick-thinking ability to pick out passes when crowded by two or more opponents was also on display as he repeatedly created chances for his teammates despite pressure from Real Madrid’s players.
While much has been said about his quality, at just 22, he clearly isn’t a complete player. One of Mudryk’s biggest areas in need of improvement is his defensive contribution. Mudryk’s eagerness to retrieve the ball frequently leads him to make rash challenges that see him pick up needless cards and fouls.
When frustrated, Mudryk can also be guilty of trying a little too hard to force openings or take shots at goal. His decision making in and around the opposition box is another area that needs to be refined. He needs to improve on his timing of his final balls and whether to pass or shoot.
However, he surprisingly tends to make better decisions when put under pressure than when he’s given time and space to make decisions around the box.
How will he fit in
After long periods of Mudryk being touted to join Arsenal, Chelsea joined the bidding late and nicked Shakhtar’s most prized asset off their London rivals. Chelsea’s decision comes as a bit of a surprise given the club’s wealth of options on both flanks. The Blues also followed up by adding winger Noni Madueke, increasing their attacking winger options to nine. Perhaps somebody is shipping out — if not this window, then perhaps this summer.
However, despite’s the club wealth of attacking options, signs point to Mudryk securing a starting place. In just ten minutes afforded to him against Liverpool, Mudryk showed the Blues what they have been missing, adding extra flair that the team’s attack had been missing all day. During his short cameo, Mudryk created multiple chances and was also close to scoring himself.
Mudryk will play from the left of the attack, seeking to cut inside to create chances or take attempts at goal himself. He is expected to fight for a place on the left of the attack, displacing the likes of Sterling, Pulisic, and Mount.
Priced at 7.0m in FPL, Mudryk seems like a fantastic for managers looking to add a player from Chelsea’s star-studded attack. While it seems like Mudryk has a big fight on his hand to nail down a place in Chelsea’s starting lineup, his transfer fee and short cameo performance against Liverpool points towards a certain spot in the Blues attack.
Having featured in 12 league games for Shakhtar last season, Mudryk contributed seven goals and six assists, averaging 1.09 goal involvement per 90 minutes. These stats point towards a productive young winger with an eye for goal and creating chances.
Mudryk is likely to be on indirect set piece and corner kick duties — He can deliver a variety of crosses. He is also one to watch from direct set pieces around the box.
Mudryk has a non-penalty expected goals rating of 0.24 per 90 minutes and total shots of 1.63 per 90 minutes. His expected assist rating of 0.33 is also a good number when the Blues goalscoring problems are considered.
Despite Mudryk’s fascinating numbers and eye-catching cameo against Liverpool, risk-averse FPL managers may wait another week with this one. Mudryk’s young age, migration to a new league, new style of play and Chelsea’s goalscoring problem calls for a bit of caution. Those who jumped the gun with Joao Felix regretted it, hence the feeling to exercise patience with Mudryk.
What are your thoughts on Mudryk? Are you tempted to bring him in sooner rather than later? Please log in and tell us what you think in the comments below!
Quotes, stats and images were sourced from fbref.com, scoutedftbl.com, givemesport.com, breakingthelines.com, lifebogger.com, premierleague.com