It would be fair to state that Arsenal fans were split on the Alexis Sanchez-Henrikh Mkhitaryan swap deal in the January transfer window but now perhaps now.
Sanchez, a pivotal figure for Arsene Wenger’s side since moving to the Emirates Stadium in 2014, came under scrutiny this season for his obvious lack of effort and discipline – and that is why the Gunners are getting the better deal. In fact, you could even go further and claim that Mkhitaryan is the perfect fit for this Arsenal team.
Mkhitaryan, a self-admitted fan of Arsenal’s slick style, made an instant impact at the start of February, recording three assists in the 5-1 demolition of Sam Allardyce’s Everton. The former Borussia Dortmund man enjoyed a prolific start to the 2017/18 campaign but his form took a hit at Old Trafford as Jose Mourinho chopped and changed his starting line-up. By the end of the Armenian’s time at United, his confidence was shattered – leaving both sets of supporters happy enough with the swap.
Don’t Reflect, Look Forward
Manchester United’s loss is Arsenal’s gain in this instance and fans will be optimistic of a change in fortune after a mixed start to the campaign. At the time of writing, Wenger’s men are sixth in the table; five points behind Antonio Conte’s Chelsea, who occupy the fourth and final Champions League spot. Finishing in the top four is an absolute must for Arsenal this season; the Gunners cannot afford to miss out on Europe’s elite club competition for the second year in a row.
WATCH: Is this Arsene Wenger’s last throw of the dice to get @Arsenal in the top four?
— Sky Sports PL (@SkySportsPL) February 1, 2018
A key reason for Arsenal’s current standing is their poor away form this year. To put it bluntly, the Gunners have been abysmal on the road this season, picking up just 13 points from 13 Premier League games.
That record is not acceptable for a team of Arsenal’s stature but Mkhitaryan can help to settle the ship. Alongside Mesut Ozil and fellow January signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mkhitaryan could make a major impact as the Gunners look to secure one of those coveted Champions League places.
Dortmund duo to make the difference
The familiarity between Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang was clear for all to see and Arsenal fans will be excited to see the two former Dortmund stars shine. Based on that blistering performance against Everton, it would be hard to argue against the Gunners in their top four pursuit. As of February 5th, Arsenal are valued at 13/2 with football betting site Betway to do just that and the Mkhitaryan-Aubameyang combination could be the difference. It could be a case of ‘no Sanchez, no worries’ for Gunners fans if Arsenal click into top gear.
Wenger has suggested that Mkhitaryan can be Santi Cazorla’s successor but one could claim that he is already a more complete footballer than the Spaniard. Playing in a 4-3-3 formation, Mkhitaryan can flourish, particularly if Wenger allows the three attackers to roam free.A fluent system would benefit Mkhitaryan and that may explain why he started to struggle at United. Romelu Lukaku’s inability to play out wide somewhat restricted Mkhitaryan’s role and he should see a lot more of the ball in central areas at the Emirates.
To Europa League or not to Europa League?
His arrival, alongside Aubameyang’s, has got Arsenal fans talking. Bleacher Report writer Alex Dunn wrote about the change in mood at the Emirates – and he is right. There is an aura of expectation building in North London. The Europa League may be a hindrance this season but it could give the likes of Mkhitaryan an opportunity to gain some invaluable game time in the coming months. He hit the ground running against Everton but it would be foolish to expect that sort of return on a weekly basis just yet.
For Arsenal, a top-four finish is the number one objective. You could make some sort of claim that Wenger should take a leaf out of Mourinho’s book by focusing on the Europa League but competing in the Premier League is a must. Mkhitaryan has the skillset to shine at the Emirates for years to come and he will flourish alongside Aubameyang and Ozil. With eight top-flight assists this season, he is still well in the hunt to climb above Kevin de Bruyne and enhance his standing as one of the best creative talents in English football.