Henrikh Mkhitaryan to Arsenal?

Henrikh Mkhitaryan to Arsenal?

Lost in all the talk about a potential Jamie Vardy move have been the rumours of Arsenal making another big move.  There have been reports out of both England and Germany that Arsenal are looking to sing Borussia Dortmund winger Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

After two good, but not great seasons, Mkhitaryan broke out under Thomas Tuchel this season.  He was a vital cog in Borussia Dortmund’s fantastic machine this season.  But the Armenian has said that he will not sign an extension unless there is a release clause in it.  With Dortmund unwilling to use release clauses after Mario Götze’s departure, Arsenal look set to pounce.

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For all the talent in the Arsenal team, the wing opposite Alexis Sanchez was a bit of a problem spot.  They tried out Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Joel Campbell, Alex Iwobi, and even Aaron Ramsey out opposite Sanchez.  None of them were able to make that spot their own.

Both Walcott and Oxlade-Chamberlain struggled for form all season.  Campbell put together a decent patch of form, but found himself out of favour with Arsene Wenger. Ramsey played reasonably well, but he really always wanted to be in the middle and was moved there once Santi Cazorla got injured.  Academy product Iwobi made the spot his own for the last 10 games of the season, but if Arsenal are going to compete for the title, they’ll need someone better as their first choice winger.

In potentially steps Mkhitaryan.  The Armenian was first choice in the attack that scored the fourth most goals per game in Europe’s top five leagues, behind only Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Paris Saint-Germain, according to WhoScored.  There was good reason for him being first choice, he scored or assisted a goal every 99 minutes.

Mkhitaryan has had good underlying production during his time at Borussia Dortmund, but his shots and chances created finally turned into goals and assists this year.  His 15 league assists was fifth among the top five leagues, according to WhoScored.com, behind only Mesut Özil, Angel Di Maria, Luis Suarez, and Lionel Messi.  Along with that he chipped in with 11 non penalty goals, more than any Arsenal players not named Olivier Giroud or Alexis Sanchez.

Mkhitaryan’s goal scoring numbers shot up this season under Tuchel, he only has 12 in his previous two seasons combined.  One could be concerned that he just had a fluky season, but his shooting numbers put a lot of that concern to rest.  He averaged 2.6 shots per 90 minutes, ninth in the Bundesliga and third in the Bundesliga among non strikers, behind only Thomas Müller and Hakan Çalhanoğlu.

Graphic courtesy of WhoScored.com.

Graphic courtesy of WhoScored.com.

His 1.2 shots inside the penalty area are 19th in the Bundesliga and fourth in the league among non strikers, behind only Thomas Müller, Marco Reus, and Andre Schürrle. Another sign that his goals numbers aren’t fluky is that he started taking better shots under Tuchel than he did under Jurgen Klopp.  In his two seasons under Klopp, the winger took 49% of his shots from outside the penalty area. That number dropped to 38% under Tuchel.

Looking at his assists, they should stay high too.  He created 2.9 chances per 90 minutes in 2015/2016 as opposed to 2.1 per 90 minutes in 2014/2015.  This would help explain his dramatic rise in assists, from 4 to 15.

Mkhitaryan is the real deal and worth splashing a huge amount of cash on.  Whoever manages to secure Mkhitaryan’s signature this summer will be getting a fantastic player.