While Arsenal fans are disappointed at the loss of Alexis Sanchez, they have received a very good player in the shape of Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Here’s a look at Arsenal’s new midfield Armenian.
United fans will all have a special and lasting memory that they take away from Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s short but sweet time at the club. Whether it be that stunning scorpion kick on Boxing Day 2016, the winning goal in the Europa League final or his continuing quality in European competitions both this season and last season. It is safe to say that even though United fans are quite rightly thrilled they’ve got Alexis Sánchez; Mkhitaryan will still be dearly missed.
Arsenal fans on the other hand may have a slightly tainted view of Alexis Sánchez, given the troubles the team have been through recently. Many fans were indeed delighted to be signing the “Midfield Armenian,” but the departure of Sanchez drew mixed responses, with many unhappy to see him go.
The deal involving Mkhitaryan and Sánchez was a straight swap between Arsenal and Manchester United; Alexis Sanchez departed London for Champions League and a seemingly guaranteed four 4 finish at United, whilst the Armenian Captain Mkhitaryan has more of a struggle on his hands, as Arsenal battle for the top four and a Champions League spot next season.
Both sets of fans seem reasonably pleased with the swap (a selection of Arsenal fans excluded) but there is a strong argument to say that Mkhitaryan’s signing, whilst it did trigger the departure of Sánchez, could be really rewarding for Arsenal.
Arsenal are currently 11 points off United, in 6th place, so United do seem fairly comfortably ahead and not threatened by Arsenal. However a short glance at the history of these two clubs will tell you that the competition between them is anything but calm and comfortable.
Arsenal and United have sometimes been labeled as the best rivalry of the Premier League era, with visions of Ruud Van Nistlerooy, Martin Keown, Roy Keane, Patrick Vieira and Robin Van Persie springing to mind.
Indeed this rivalry has calmed down over the years, as Arsenal are threatened by Tottenham Hotspur while United’s dominance is challenged by Manchester City, but in football, the Premier League especially, rivalries seem to last, even if their significance is rooted deep in history.
United selling Mkhitaryan and Arsenal selling Sánchez to such significant rivals may seem like nothing, considering the good business between the two clubs over the past few seasons, but these deals could prove to be game-changers for both teams. Indeed many United fans hope that Sánchez will join a fairly long list of players who have left Arsenal and have then had considerable success, (Robin Van Persie being the best example of such a player.)
Arsenal on the other hand have been waiting to regain their status as European and Premier League heavyweights and whilst they have lost an excellent and world-class player in Sánchez it is plausible that Mkhitaryan could be the one to lead Arsenal back to Top 4 and Premier League dominance and reassert the club as competitors.
Mkhitaryan’s statistics and records point to the fact that despite his drop in form towards the end of his United days, he can still cause a lot of damage on a football pitch. The winner of United’s 2017 Goal of the Season award managed four league goals in his first season at United, but it was Europe where the former Borussia Dortmund player really shone.
He claimed seven goals across the Europa League and Champions League in his 18 months in Manchester, including the winning goal in the 2017 Europa League Final. European competitions are where Micky (as fans lovingly called him) could truly do some damage.
This season Mkhitaryan will not have the chance to feature in the Champions League, as Arsenal battle on in the Europa League. However if they progress to the Champions League, either through a top four finish or by winning the Europa League, Arsenal could be significant competition with Mkhitaryan in their side.
Indeed all English clubs in the Champions League this season have shown their quality and shown their threat as opposition, but with the skills of a player like Mkhitaryan in their side, Arsenal could be dangerous in the Champions League.
It must be said that Arsenal’s recent run in the Champions League last season was completely humiliating (losing 10-2 on aggregate to Bayern Munich being the highlight.) However the quality that Mkhitaryan could bring to their European campaign must not be understated; he was vital in United winning the Europa League and there is every chance he could repeat this win with Arsenal this season.
Even at the start of this season Mkhi managed one European goal in four appearences for United, which is somewhat respectable given the disappointing form he was in. Arsenal fans will hope and expect that the Armenian can improve on this goal tally during his time in North London.
United have clearly got an incredible deal with Alexis Sánchez. It is entirely possible and likely that the young Chilean could return United to their former glory and help bring the Premier League, Champions League and more back to Old Trafford. Whilst many Arsenal fans were disappointed with the departure of Sánchez, they should have every faith in their new signing.
The quality Mkhitaryan could bring to Arsenal, especially in terms of European competitions, means that they too have got a very could deal and could develop into serious competitors once more. This transfer put a smile on the face of United fans and (further) divided Arsenal fans, but importantly it could reignite a much needed spark in a seemingly declining Arsenal team.