Henrikh Mkhitaryan has indicated that Unai Emery’s defensive demands of him may have been the reason why Arsenal supporters rarely saw him at his best last season.
Mkhitaryan, currently on loan at Roma, arrived at Arsenal in a swap deal with Manchester United for Alexis Sanchez in January 2018 but his sole full season saw him register just six goals and seven assists in 39 games. It proved to be a meagre return for one of the best-paid players at the club and at 31 he is unlikely to get a second chance in north London.
The Armenian international was valued by former Gunners boss Emery – indeed the Spaniard was reluctant to let him depart to Serie A in August – but as much for his industrious tracking of full-backs and energetic pressing as the creative qualities he had displayed at Borussia Dortmund.
Though his 2019/20 season was disrupted by injuries before Serie A’s coronavirus-enforced lockdown Mkhitaryan has enjoyed something of a revival with Roma, matching his goal tally for last term in 19 fewer games and earning the admiration of head coach Paulo Fonseca.
Click to play
Tap to play
The video will start in8Cancel
Mkhitaryan told The Times: “When I was at Arsenal, I had different things asked from me by the coach, people were expecting different things from here.
“The philosophy of Emery was different from Fonseca, but here I’m feeling much better because we’re playing better football and I think it matched me.
“I prefer Fonseca’s football because we’re playing very offensively, we’re trying to have the ball all the time here and of course I like this kind of game.”
Reports in Italy claim Roma have not yet met Arsenal’s £23million price for Mkhitaryan but football.london understands there would be a willingness from the Emirates hierarchy to do a deal for a player who is out of contract in the summer of 2021.
Roma have made no secret of their desire to bring Mkhitaryan back for the 2020/21 season whilst he plays far less of a part in Arsenal’s long-term plans than youngsters such as Reiss Nelson, Bukayo Saka and Gabriel Martinelli.
“I can’t say anything at the moment because the season is stopped, we don’t know when we’ll start playing again and what will happen in the summer,” Mkhitaryan said.
“Football changes so quickly. One day you’re here, the other you’re there. You never know what can happen and what will happen with you.”