February 27, 2019 - 13:35 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - It’s not been easy for Armenian midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan to make his mark at Arsenal, but he is beginning to turn a corner, Goal.com Chief Correspondent Peter Staunton says in a fresh article.
Since being restored to the team after a metatarsal break – which came before Christmas in the Carabao Cup defeat to Tottenham – Mkhitaryan has arguably been Unai Emery’s top performer, Alexandre Lacazette aside.
He assisted the French forward against Southampton; and a goal of his own meant that this would be the most productive of his three seasons in the Premier League in a scoring sense.
That might not be saying much given that the total for the campaign so far stands at a relatively modest five but it is evidence that Mkhitaryan is improving both in form and confidence under Emery in 2019, Staunton reports.
"While injured, Mkhitaryan was forced to sit aside and watch as Denis Suarez was acquired on loan from Barcelona. The winger’s impact on the other hand has been scant. He is yet to make a significant mark on the Arsenal side and there would appear to be little opportunity for the 26-year-old to carve out a niche in the team," he says.
"The prospects of Suarez remaining at the club beyond this season right now remain remote. Although a favourite of Emery at Sevilla, sources close to Suarez say he is not taking anything for granted in terms of his future at Arsenal.
"He was reasonably optimistic of making a go of it at Barca if Ernesto Valverde was dismissed this coming off-season. However, the Barca coach’s contract extension would appear to have put paid to those chances.
"And while he might have thought of Arsenal as a safe haven under a coach he knows - and who trusts him - that has not been the case so far. One reason for that could be that his spell at the club has coincided in an upturn in the form of Mkhitaryan; a bonus for Arsenal but an obstacle for Suarez.
"Emery is the type of coach who is prone to change both personnel and shape in a quest for consistency. A select few have made it to undroppable status – a group, it must be said, that includes neither Mesut Ozil nor Aaron Ramsey – and there is a real chance that if Mkhitaryan can definitively put his injury troubles behind him then he can come into that band too.
"He has carved out a role for himself on the right side of the Arsenal attack in recent weeks – in either of Emery’s favourite tactical set-ups. Against Huddersfield, away from home when he first came back into the side, Mkhitaryan lined up with Alex Iwobi either side of Alexandre Lacazette. That was the same position he took when BATE Borisov shocked the Gunners in the Europa League round of 32 first leg defeat.
"When Emery opted to change to four at the back thereafter - and use five in midfield - Mkhitaryan solidified his place in the team despite calls from the armchair sceptics to remove him. And that pre-empted, arguably, Mkhitaryan’s two most productive games of the season, first against BATE in the return leg and then against Southampton on Sunday.
"It’s been a long road back for Mkhitaryan. Many were quick to write him off as a flop following his move from Manchester United. He never fit the bill for Jose Mourinho at Old Trafford but he could hardly be accused of being the only one. The upturn in the form of Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba and more would pay testament to that."