I think I owe Mkhitaryan an apology

I write this blog every morning on my way to work. It’s a bit of a schlep and so I get about 45 minutes to compile some thoughts and as a result I’m not exactly one for research to the nth degree.

I write this blog as a compilation of my own personal ramblings on Arsenal, an online football diary of how I’m feeling, if you will. I’m not in an online space to be the first to get breaking news, or to use statistics to prove my point above all reasonable doubt about x player, y system, z formation.

The result of that is that my writing is written almost inevitably from the heart and emotions and often whilst things are still relatively raw and fresh from the last game.

All of this is of course preamble to the main point of today’s ramblings, which is that I feel like I’ve done Henrikh Mkhitaryan a bit of a disservice this season. Perhaps not on this blog, because I tend to focus on positive performances of players when we win or what didn’t work out from a team perspective when we lose, but certainly offline when talking to mates in the pub, etc.

The truth is I just saw Mkhitaryan as an ‘Özil lite’ i.e. a number 10 but not as good as our German magician.

But after watching the Aaron Ramsey goal for about the millionth time on the tube home last night, something clicked inside me and I realised that he had a much more influential game than I thought.

Rewatch the Ramsey goal again (I’m sure you don’t need an excuse 🙂 ). When Ramsey heads the ball to Mkhi he takes control, swivels, then plays a ball in the left channel for Aubameyang who just needs to cut back to Ramsey for his flick. That was my lightbulb moment for Mkhi.

It was a weighted pass that didn’t get an assist stat, but played an utterly crucial role in that goal.

Perhaps that in itself is an example as to why I haven’t really seen the value of Mkhitaryan until I’d watched the build up to that goal a few times. Often on Sunday he was popping up in positions, finding space, finding players, giving Bellerin an option but, as we all know, he was neither on the scoresheet or notching assists.

He has got goals and assists in him, we know this from seeing the Chelski game, but that in itself proffers some insight into why a simple football fan like me hasn’t always seen what he offers. As football fans so many of us are programmed to see the negative of football. It’s a game which offers highs and lows but sometimes even for fans at the top of the domestic game there are plenty of lows, that some of us are conditioned to lament the problems more. I put myself in that bracket and sometimes I can’t help myself. It’s like a desensitising approach that ensures that if the result turns sour I won’t fell as down.

In that Chelski game Mkhitaryan was woeful for the first 20 minutes and gave the ball away about three times which drove me mad with rage whilst sitting from my armchair. Yet in that very same game he started us off with a sweetly struck left foot and a very tidy assist for Iwobi’s goal and by the end of the game he’d quietened down again, leaving me scratching my head as to whether or not he’d had a good game or not.

And I guess that’s where sometimes those people who look at statistical analysis of players can often see that a player has had a good game. In the heightened emotions of a football match I am guilty of just ‘watching’ and not always paying attention of things like off the ball movement, build up to goals or attempts at goal, etc. The guy who is the last one to supply for a goal and the goal scorer themselves get the plaudits in my mind and in the instant reaction of a game. But that guy who played the ball in behind for a wide player to slide in to a goal scorer should also get some credit and that’s why I guess I’ve titled the blog as an apology for Mkhitaryan.

I still think that he’s not as good as Özil as a central player but in a team so stocked of central players he is perhaps more malleable to wider positions and perhaps he can start to carve himself a niche in this Arsenal team under Emery.

Whatever happens though, I promise to appreciate him more, when he gives us performances like Sunday.

Laters people. Have a good one. And remember to tune in to me, Dave, Giles and Aaron on the LoveSport radio show tonight between 7pm and 8.30pm UK time. We’re on 558AM or DAB digital radio when you search ‘LoveSport’. I think we’ve even got Alan Smith coming on tonight so it should be a good one.

By | 2018-10-10T07:47:20+00:00 October 10th, 2018|Arsenal FC, Attack, gooners, Gunners, premier league, Tactics|10 Comments

About the Author:

Gooner born in 1982 from Harlow, Essex, with a love for Arsenal that knows. I'm not an AKb, nor am I an 'In Arsene we Rust', but I like to think that I can tip-toe between the two, occasionally veering into both camps.

10 Comments

  1. john peters 10th October 2018 at 1:08 pm - Reply

    no, you were right the first time. my son who supports united told me he will show up in games where his team is winning but cannot be relied upon when not. exactly like Ozil. they do well in great teams that don’t need them in any way. secret of Ozil and Germany. Notice in his time with them didn’t take free kicks, corners or pens and wasn’t relied upon to start the moves. just a bit of luxury icing.
    that is exactly what has happened with Mik. we have been on a winning run and so when he comes on seems ok – but notice doesn’t start. i also thought his pass v Fulham was bad enough to end the move and that Aub redeemed it

    • Segun Eris 10th October 2018 at 6:44 pm - Reply

      Sorry, John Peters, but you need to watch the man a bit more closely. There’s a reason he was started in that game: Emery wanted his more physical and direct players on the pitch for the game vs Fulham, who have a talented squad but are unable to defend. So, with Welbeck, Iwobi and Lacazette, Mkhi completed our physical and skilled forward picks to avoid being physically dominated, while providin* a threat all the time.

      That pass for the Auba assist was perfection, the result of a craftsman at his best. It was so well weighted and angled to ensure Auba didn’t need to break stride to reach it and whip it for Ramsey’s goal. Another player will place that ball in a way that will require one or two more touches before the cross. Another type of pass will make it tempting for Auba to go for goal (which could yield a different outcome.

      Another thing of note: Mkhi was involved, in one way or the other (pre-assist or pre-pre-assist) in four of our goals last Sunday. Think about that for a minute.

  2. Tom 10th October 2018 at 6:18 pm - Reply

    I’m not sure about Mkhitaryan to be honest. He certainly isn’t in the same class as a Hleb or a Cazorla who were (perhaps still are) fantastic number 10s. From what I’ve seen he seems to be at his best when running down the right and playing the ball back from the byline. I’d suggest that he’s far more suited to playing on the right of a midfield four than Mesut Ozil or Aaron Ramsey.

  3. Serge 10th October 2018 at 9:01 pm - Reply

    I n my opinion Mkhi is fantastic player, coachable and a great teammate

  4. Akan 10th October 2018 at 10:34 pm - Reply

    The whole of the team, bar one are playing good football right now,, I reckon that this side have the ability to go close to winning the title if it wasn’t for that lazy con artist Dhaka,, Everyone else is working hard,, he’s just trotting around trying to screwup all the good work the rest of the team are doing

    • Segun Eris 11th October 2018 at 12:30 am - Reply

      Did you mean Granit Xhaka? On the contrary, he’s probably the one player the team cannot do without. Very key to how we play and always the one who keeps things ticking over. Played all 38 league games last season and has started all league games this season; that should tell you something, no?

      • D 11th October 2018 at 1:00 am - Reply

        Segun, question is did we win the league or anything last season when he played all 38 games?

        • Segun Eris 11th October 2018 at 1:29 pm - Reply

          Oh, dearie me! I didn’t realize that the teams that didn’t win the league last season (all 19 of them) had one “lazy con artist” of a midfielder in them all. What a revolutionary comment. You’ve just discovered the reason only ONE team wins the league each year and all 19 others fail. Well done!

  5. Թորոս 11th October 2018 at 6:25 pm - Reply

    Mkhitaryan is above the rest, He is like a chess player; he thinks 5 passes ahead…If you watch the whole game again, you will see his influence on the goals…

  6. muhammed 13th October 2018 at 3:15 pm - Reply

    mhiki is simply a good player. I believe it was a good trade we did with united

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