Tag Archives: mkhitaryan

Mkhitaryan Will Come Good

Rotation is part and parcel of the modern game.

With the majority of successful sides playing between 55-70 games in a season on average, a well-stocked squad is fundamental.

A lack of numbers in any position is sure to be exploited by the rigours of a domestic and European campaign – something we Arsenal fans can painfully attest to.

On more than a few occasions we have seen our defence brutally exposed by a succession of injuries – centre-backs, left and right-backs, none were safe, and it took the powers of adaptation and youth for us to be able to field a recognisable backline.

So, an ample squad is necessary.

It does have a negative though.

Players and managers often cite a lack of match rhythm for poor form. It seems that players need a run of successive games in order to attain the zenith of their skills and talents. Like fine-tuning a radio to oust the static, each minute inches the player ever closer to that halcyon slice of time that sees one of our players hit the purple zone and show us all exactly what they are capable of.

This seems to be the issue for Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

The Armenian has given us more than a few assists and goals since his arrival as part of the swap deal that saw wantaway Chilean Alexis go to United.

The player with the scrabble-winning surname has one goal and three assists at the time of writing (this was written on the cusp of us facing Wolves on 11 Nov), from 11 games. Not exactly terrible, but far from what his early form promised.

When Mkhitaryan arrived, he linked up instantly with former Dortmund brethren Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. His displays against Everton and Watford particularly, were vibrant and intricate, full of texture and the air of a master locksmith. It looked like we had an excellent accomplice to Mesut Ozil.

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This season though, has seen Mkhi restricted to mostly Europa League and League cup appearances. The first three games saw him in the eleven, but since then he has started only three more – with only two of them coming in a row.

It means that our playmaker has not been able to edge toward his top level, and it has seen a small portion of fans round on him.

Form is temporary, class is permanent, and Mkhitaryan has already shown in flashes what he brings to the team. He has also shown at Dortmund and United what he can do at the top level – if given the chance.

Emery has already shown he has no hesitation to put Mkhi in for the big games – being selected for the Liverpool draw ahead of the in-form Iwobi speaks volumes.

Injuries will bite, and Mkhitaryan will get a run of starts in the near future – that much is certain.

What isn’t certain is will us fans keep in mind that the circumstances haven’t been kind to the attacker, and we are yet to see him fully stretch out and enjoy himself?

We will see the slide-rule passes, clever finishes and intricate boxwork, and it will become vital as the matches come thick and fast. He will play his part, and despite his lack of gametime, Mkhitaryan has not moaned. Instead he has knuckled down and kept training hard.

Mkhitaryan at his best is among the finest playmakers in the Premier League. We have a hell of a player on our books, and we most certainly got the better end of the swap deal with United.

Mkhitaryan will come good – and his clever play fits seamlessly with our style. Mkhi is most definitely a Gunner.

Emery’s Best Eleven?

Plenty of changes are afoot under the new Unai Emery regime.

The refreshing winds of variance are rushing through The Emirates, as the Spaniard implements the struts that will support the foundation of his tenure.

New coaching methods, new coaching staff and most importantly – new tactics.

By and large, he has the same squad that limped to an underwhelming 6th place finish last season. The five new signings are a transfusion of sorts, breathing vitality into the body of the squad, hopefully treating the rust that was beginning to set in at the tail-end of Wenger’s long reign.

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Still, it will be what he does with the players who underperformed last year that will define his era. Will the new boys buy into the ethos? More importantly, will the other players adapt in the face of such sweeping changes, especially because of the stark contrast of what they were used to?

Simply put, they have to, but even if they do, the next step is a pretty big one – fine-tuning the tactics and formation to suit the players we have.

One of the big hurdles to this has already become apparent – fitting in Lacazette and Aubameyang into the same side.

We are blessed with two strikers that have a deep relationship with the back of the net. Both have proven they can score goals for fun, and the bond they have created between each other in training seems to be a strong one.

If this happens, we will have a very strong attack, but Emery is known to adapt his side in the face of varying opposition. So if we have a trip to Old Trafford, that would probably suit just one striker, with an extra midfielder to stifle the home side.

When we have a game where we can dictate play, then Laca and Auba will be called for. But that means we need a sacrificial lamb – and each candidate has a certain quality we could really do with to unlock defences.

Mesut Ozil is chief playmaker and the one who can craft a passage of play that goes against the grain. He may have lacked consistency in the past, but we are better off with him in the team than without.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan is capable of much. The Armenian scored and assisted 20 plus in the same season in his best season at Dortmund – and there is nothing to suggest that he can’t replicate that at Arsenal. He had promising signs last season, and his link-up play with Aubameyang borders on intuitive.

Then there is Aaron Ramsey. The Welshman’s late runs into the box are unreadable, and often come late in the game where tired defenders are even less capable of stymying him. Ramsey is also a better defensive player than the above two, and can add solidity.

One of these will have to be put on the bench to incorporate the deadly duo of Auba and Laca. The pair could rip defences apart, but we will have to be bereft of one of our most creative lights to make it happen.

Unless we adopt another formation change. We play Ramsey alongside Torreira in the centre of the park, with Ozil, Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang playing behind Lacazette. It is an extroverted eleven, but it includes our best players, something that could make the difference in the tight games.

Perhaps it could be a plan B? Say we are a goal down with twenty minutes to go, chuck Laca on and switch the formation up – and let rip.

Either way, Emery has some tinkering to do – and this will take time. We may not see our best eleven under Emery for months, but rest assured when it is finally found, we will soar up the table.

Arsenal Vs Southampton PL Match Preview

Five wins on the bounce. Two months ago that seemed like a pipedream, but on the eve of our Premier League match against Southampton, we seem to have recovered from our slump.

And yet, the hard work has only just begun, and reports of our resurrection have been greatly embellished.

Of course, two wins against a strong Milan side, comprehensive victories over Watford and Stoke and now our thumping of CSKA are far better fare than our losses against Brighton, City and Ostersunds, but while we may have one foot in the Europa League Semi-Finals, our Premier League placing is still lower than we’d like. Far lower.

With just seven games left, we are a distant 13 points from fourth spot and our rivals spurs. Even fifth spot is five points away from us. We are closer to Burnley and Leicester than we are Liverpool, spurs and United. There is no escaping our poor domestic form, and while there is a chance of redemption – no matter how miniscule – then we must fight for it.

Our two League wins have helped to steady a ship that was in danger of capsizing, but we need to make haste now. A home match against lowly Southampton seems perfect to gain more momentum, but we should heed the warning signs.

Mark Hughes has been a thorn in our side before, and so have the Saints. Despite their relegation zone woes, they still have quality players that can hurt us and as we showed against CSKA on Thursday, a simple mistake can lead to a goal.

Our team will be switched up from the one that defeated Moscow midweek. Laurent Koscielny may be rested for the second leg next week, with Calum Chambers dropping into central defence most likely.

Mohamed Elneny is another who should come back into the side, with either Granit Xhaka or Aaron Ramsey rested.

Then we have our attack, and there’s a few things to ponder.

Firstly, Henrikh Mkhitaryan looks to be ruled out for the foreseeable, so who plays in his stead? Alex Iwobi came on for him after he was injured against CSKA, and we have the effervescence of Danny Welbeck who gives good value playing out wide. Jack Wilshere is another who can come into the attacking quartet, but now the Armenian is out, rotation will have to be limited.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang will surely come into the side after being cup-tied for our European adventures, and Lacazette will most likely make way, unless Wenger acts on his recent comments and plays Auba out wide, with Lacazette retaining his central spot.

Mark Hughes has seen his side lose their last two games in the league to the tune of 3-0 scorelines. Their only win in the last five was an unconvincing win in the FA Cup over Wigan. They have the players to hurt us though.

Charlie Austin is a real threat aerially that Mustafi will do well to contain, and James Ward-Prowse can be deadly from set-pieces. Manolo Gabbiadini is a good foil for Austin and with Bertrand and Cedric at full-back, they have the capacity to stretch us. Mario Lemina faces a fitness test but him aside, they have a clean bill of health and in Nathon Redmond and Sofiane Boufal, some unpredictability that can change games.

We really can’t rest on our haunches, because one single loss can render our recent wins a moot point. We drastically need to improve our league placing, as having all of our eggs in a Europa League basket is risky, especially with Atletico Madrid being overwhelming cup favourites.

While we have a small chance, we need to keep plugging away. #UTA

Predicted Lineup – Cech, Bellerin, Chambers, Mustafi, Monreal, Elneny, Ramsey, Ozil, Wilshere, Welbeck, Aubameyang

Predicted Scoreline – 2-1 to The Arsenal

Arsenal Vs CSKA Moscow Europa League Preview

It was pretty clear from our patient 3-0 win over Stoke in the weekend, that our priorities lie in the Europa League.

On the eve of our first leg tie against CSKA Moscow, our lineup against Stoke gave us plenty of pointers for this important Europa League Quarter-final. We left out many players to make sure they’re fighting fit to give it their all. It’s vital that we take an advantage back to Russia for the second leg, and we’ll need our returning players to make that happen.

Laurent Koscielny was rested against Stoke and Calum Chambers slotted in seamlessly, but the Frenchman is primed for an instant recall to lend his experience to our defence, alongside Shkodran Mustafi.

Mohamed Elneny was another who was drafted in to face the Potters, and Granit Xhaka made way. The Swiss midfielder should come straight back in at the Egyptian’s expense, likely partnering Aaron Ramsey in the centre of midfield.

The most welcome news though, is the return of Alexandre Lacazette. The Frenchman has been out for some time, and our Europa League campaign has been spearheaded by the effective, if goalshy, Danny Welbeck. Lacazette returning means we now have a sharper edge to our attack should chances come his way, and the striker will be more than pleased with the gametime with the World Cup looming and limited time to book his ticket in Didier Deschamps French squad.

With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang cup-tied, Lacazette’s return is heaven-sent news. Henrik Mkhitaryan was another to be saved the slings and arrows of Stoke opponents, and the Armenian was instrumental in our win over AC Milan in the last round, let’s hope he can recreate that form in this tie.

With Lacazette in front of Mkhitaryan and Ozil, we’ve got an attack that can pierce most defences. We will probably go with either Jack or Welbeck in the one remaining slot in our forward line, and we’ll need some guile to build up a decent advantage before we face the cauldron of CSKA’s home ground.

Our opponents have some dangermen in their side. Alan Dzagoev, Golovkin and former Leicester striker Ahmed Musa will pose a threat, and with Berezutski in defence, they have experience at the back to give us a test.

CSKA are in the midst of a battle in the Russian top-flight. They lie in third spot, behind Lokomotiv and Spartak and just ahead of Zenit and FC Krasnodar. It’ll mean they’ll be well placed to deal with a tussle, and we’ll really need to make sure we don’t concede – an away goal could be pretty disastrous.

We’ve got Southampton next up, only three days after our CSKA tie. We showed against Stoke we can rotate effectively and without losing any real strength in our side. With our team at least a little rested, we should be looking to take a positive scoreline to Moscow next week. The Europa League is our last hope of success, let’s make a real fist of it.

Predicted lineup – Ospina, Bellerin, Koscielny, Mustafi, Monreal, Xhaka, Ramsey, Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Wilshere, Lacazette

Predicted Scoreline – 2-0 to The Arsenal

Buy and Sell – Trimming the Fat in the Transfer Window

This latest transfer window was viewed as a success by the majority, even though the need for a centre-back and a holding midfielder was glaringly overlooked.

Such was the strength of our additions, our paucity for defensive and midfield options didn’t really impact on the optimism in regards to our transfer actions. Bringing in Henrikh Mkhitaryan represented shrewd and much needed purchases, and puts our attack at the very front when it comes to goal threats.

There was another element that made this window a surefire winner though, and it was the fact we cleared our squad of the driftwood that contributed little to our results.

Coquelin in a Valencia shirt
Walcott left for Everton

Managing to cut loose Mathieu Debuchy, Theo Walcott and Francis Coquelin freed up valuable squad space that could be filled with superior options, or a chance for a promising youngster to come through the ranks.

Losing Alexis Sanchez would hurt any side, and the Chilean going to a rival only added to the burn, but having Alexis in the side means we had to play a certain way and limited our options. Plus, Alexis broke the record for amount of times a player has lost possession in one game in United’s 2-0 win over Huddersfield recently. A record he previously held.

It is no coincidence that since he joined, we have lost our regular ability to thrill the crowd and generate moves that draw gasps from the purists and fans alike. The first match we played without Alexis and with our new boys? We played the football that we’re famous for.

Of course it’s early days, we shouldn’t get too carried away, but having our goal threat spread out over Mesut Ozil, Mkhitaryan, Lacazette and Aubameyang is in-keeping with the passing moves we implement. We rely on runners into the box, rather than waiting for one man to produce.

Another loss that could hamper us is Olivier Giroud. The much-loved Frenchman has also departed for a rival, but Giroud’s role was selfless and his introduction into proceedings gave us something different to what we currently possess. We can cope, but having him to call on benefitted us. It would have been selfish to keep him as he needs to play with the World Cup looming, but I fear we may miss Giroud more than we miss the mercurial talents of Alexis.

Mathieu Debuchy and Theo Walcott hadn’t started a league game this season. Francis Coquelin wasn’t playing either. They get first team football, we get a squad place and some cash to reinvest, whether that is through a fee or recouping wages.

Debuchy in a free transfer to St Etienne

Recruiting wisely as we have done, and selling the squad players who were not playing, means we’ve trimmed the fat and not lost any ability to put out a strong side. We still have those players that can come in and do a job and help with rotation, and every man we have in the group can make a difference.

For once, we’ve ticked the majority of boxes and ended a window far stronger than when we started.

Ozil signs extension – the best window ever?

This is perhaps the best news of all, dependant on your viewpoint.

Mesut Ozil has signed a contract extension after a protracted saga that ebbed and flowed between the German happy in London, to wanting to join Jose Mourinho at United.

Ozil has signed for another 3 and a half years and is now by far our highest paid player on £350k per week.

Regardless of whether the man – or any – has earned this sum of money, what we have to ask ourselves is whether we could have coped without him – would we be less of a team if he had left?

No, we couldn’t cope without him.

And yes, we’d be less of a team.

The facts don’t lie, and since Ozil made his debut in 2013, no other player has made more assists, nor created as many clear-cut chances than our playmaker.

This transfer window improved significantly when Henrikh Mkhitaryan signed. Of course, it was pretty bad to start with when Alexis left, but then we signed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and we were on cloud nine.

We still wanted the news on Ozil though.

When it was confirmed, it made for probably the best transfer window we’ve had.

We’ve pretty much earned this transfer window.

Season after season, we look into the window and watch as the rest of the kids play with their new, shiny toys, while we languish outside, shivering in the cold.

We want those toys, but we’re told we can’t have them. We can’t afford them, so while our ‘friends career around on their racy new BMX, we’ve still got our sister’s hand-me-down, with peeling fuchsia paint….

…and a basket on the front.

So many windows we’ve looked into forlornly and with more than a little envy, but now, WE’VE got the BMX.

And the remote control car. And the Sega Mega Drive.