Henrikh Mkhitaryan says Unai Emery’s tactics left him building play alongside the defensive midfielder and prevented him from getting more involved in the goals.
Mkhitaryan completed a loan transfer to AS Roma over the summer, after a year and a half of very mixed performances for the Gunners.
After a decent start for Arsenal, scoring twice and assisting six times in his first 10 appearances for the club, Mkhitaryan’s form dipped and he suffered a knee injury at a crucial time.
Then Unai Emery joined the club and the winger’s goal contribution figures dropped still further. The 30-year-old says this was due to a change in how he was being utilised.
“He paid more attention to tactics, so my role changed,” said Mkhitaryan in an interview with FourFourTwo. “I was starting as a winger but had to build play with the defensive midfielder. It’s why I couldn’t contribute as many goals or assists.
“I like to play more freely and move wherever there’s space, but you have to do the job that the manager asks.”
This is probably true to an extent, though Mkhitaryan also had plenty of sub-par performances regardless of what he was being asked to do. He missed sitters regularly and dribbled into trouble multiple times a game, which can only be blamed on him.
As for why he made the decision to leave Arsenal on loan for AS Roma this summer, Mkhitaryan said that at his age he can’t be a bench player.
“I couldn’t accept that I had to sit on the bench for some matches,” Mkhitaryan continued. “I know my qualities and what I can do. I’m 30 years old now and I like to play football, not just sit on the bench and waste my time.
“Emery and [head of football] Raul Sanllehi assured me I was important for Arsenal, but I signed for Roma because they believed in me more.”
Mkhitaryan has been out injured for Roma for the last month and a half, though it appears he’s on the verge of a return.