It’s not been easy for Henrikh Mkhitaryan to make his mark at Arsenal, but he is beginning to turn a corner.
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
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.
While injured, Mkhitaryan was forced to
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
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
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.
And, significantly, one attacker who hasn’t managed to rediscover his top form is Alexis Sanchez, the man Arsenal swapped for Mkhitaryan.
The Armenian was considered a bit of a tack-on at the time, with United’s capture of Alexis – on record wages – seen as the bigger deal in last January’s transfer window.
While Sanchez has had the time and space to try and work his way into form, it has not yet been forthcoming. Indeed, his coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer recently compared him to a ketchup bottle which simply refuses to yield any ketchup.
His slide looks at this stage to be terminal. Mkhitaryan on the other