Henrikh Mkhitaryan may be replacing Alexis Sanchez in the Arsenal team, but we’ll be getting a different type of player.
Mkhitaryan is finally about to become an Arsenal player – albeit a couple of years too late.
The Armenian was sensational at Borussia Dortmund but rather than join Arsenal’s merry band of creatives in 2016, he opted for Manchester United’s pragmatism.
That turned out to be a mistake, as Jose Mourinho has preferred other options on his flanks.
Arsenal continued to admire him, and used the opportunity provided by Alexis Sanchez’s departure to bring him to the club.
So, just what sort of player are Arsenal getting?
2Style and strengths
Mkhitaryan is a playmaker who excels on the flanks or as a number ten.
At Dortmund, he would combine excellent close control, the ability to thread through passes while dribbling and a quick burst of acceleration with a tireless work ethic.
He has the ability to weave in and out of challenges and spot passes that can unlock defences.
It’s this style of play that made him so effective on the counter attack for both Dortmund and United.
He also possesses an eye for goal.
His record of 44 goals in 106 appearances for Shakhtar Donetsk is superb for a midfielder. 41 goals in 140 appearances at Dortmund is also a very good return.
His composure in front goal and ability to find space in the penalty area can be a potent mix when he’s on top of his game.
Jose Mourinho was especially critical of Mkhitaryan during his time at United, saying that he disappeared from games.
This is indicative of the player’s inconsistency, which has followed him throughout his career.
Before his excellent final season at Dortmund, he could be, at times, wasteful in the final third despite taking up good positions.
Another thing that’s worth noting is that his number of successful dribbles per game is decreasing.
At Dortmund, he averaged between 2.8 and 3.4 successful dribbles per 90. However, that number has declined as he’s gotten older, to just 1.4 per game this season.
Dribbling was one of his biggest strengths and enabled him to create more. Without it, he may be more reliant on his passing.
The other big issue is age. Mkhitaryan is 29-years-old now and possibly past his very best. He may not be so useful in the long-term.
4Can he help Arsenal?
In the immediate short-term, Mkhitaryan can give Arsenal a lift.
Replacing Alexis’ scoring and creative output is no easy task, but Mkhitaryan at his best can help alleviate that issue.
His style of play will certainly suit Arsenal and help them create better opportunities for Alexandre Lacazette.
Being able to play on the left or right of the attack will mean he can play with Mesut Ozil as well.
Arsenal have been lacking a wide playmaker for several seasons now, and the Armenian is one of the best around.
The concern will be his age and inevitable decline, but that’s something they would have also had to face with Alexis who is a month older.
It won’t be easy getting consistency out of a declining player. Doing so will be crucial to making him a successful signing.