With three of his clubs and one former manager in the Europa League semi-finals, Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been looking back on his time with Arsenal and Unai Emery.
Of the last four in the Europa League, Henrikh Mkhitaryan has played for Arsenal, Manchester United, and AS Roma – which is where he’s playing currently. Though he’s never played for Villarreal, he was of course coached by Unai Emery at Arsenal.
Regardless of what happens next, there are going to be a few storylines involving Mkhitaryan. Speaking ahead of the Manchester United semi-final, the player looked back on his time with Arsenal and under both Arsene Wenger and Unai Emery.
“With Wenger, it was freedom, the freedom to move, to play with the ball,” Mkhitaryan said. “He always wanted to play with the ball. He never wanted to defend because he was always saying if we score more goals than the opponent we’re going to win the game.
“It was a pleasing time. Unfortunately, after six months he was sacked.
“Then there was Emery, so a different approach to football, a different philosophy. It was quite hard for me because I wasn’t playing a lot of the time.
“Most of the time I was sitting on the bench and I never like sitting on the bench because throughout my career I always wanted to play and win something. Emery saw football differently and was relying on other players.”
Perhaps it would be harsh to argue that Emery was the reason things didn’t work out for Mkhitaryan at Arsenal. After all, Mkhitaryan had a very similar record in England with Manchester United, and he can hardly blame Emery for that.
But it’s true that the 32-year-old has rediscovered his form in Italy. After 21 direct goal contributions in 59 games for Arsenal and 23 in 63 for Manchester United, he has 35 in 66 for AS Roma. That includes 20 g/a so far this season.
The real test will be whether he can show that same form against Manchester United, and then against either his former club or his former coach in the final.