Henrikh Mkhitaryan has become a central figure in this January transfer window, as reports suggest he holds the key to Alexis Sanchez’s future. It had been expected that the Chilean would leave Arsenal for Manchester City. However, Manchester United have jumped ahead of their local rivals in the queue to sign the 29-year-old and hope the offer of a straight swap deal will get a deal completed. Sky Sports report that any possible switch to Old Trafford is hinged on Mkhitaryan agreeing to move in the opposite direction. The Armenian international’s agent Mino Raiola has been quoted as saying:
“Sanchez is part of Mkhi’s deal. Not the other way around. Without him, Sanchez simply cannot go to United. Mkhi’s problems at Man Utd are purely related to playing football. He has no problem with the manager. It is not personal. And he has two and a half years left on his contract. He doesn’t have to leave.”
“This is a great deal for Arsenal. They need better, younger players and they have to invest. So it’s up to Arsenal to put a deal in place and right now a deal is a long way off.”
It is interesting for an agent to openly comment on an ongoing transfer and this deal could run to the latter stages of the transfer window. For Arsenal, this would be a decent outcome to Sanchez saga. It has been well-known that the Chilean international would be leaving the club at some point before the end of his contract and the longer the uncertainty went on, the less likely it was that the Gunners would receive a beneficial deal. Their bargaining power decreased and desperation increased.
Although this would see them lose their best player to one of their bitter rivals, they would be gaining a very accomplished player in return. Mkhitaryan has struggled to make a huge impact in England, but he remains a talented creative player and he would add much-needed quality to the Gunners’ squad. If as expected, the club lose both Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, they will need serious investment. To gain a player that has performed to a high level throughout his career in exchange for a player that will be worth nothing in six months is good business.
If Mkhitaryan was to arrive in exchange for Sanchez, he shouldn’t be viewed as a direct replacement as he doesn’t possess the same skill-set as the Chilean. The Manchester United attacker would be seen as a long-term replacement for Mesut Ozil, as he can deliver a similar level of creativity. His contribution of five goals and six assists during his Premier League career at Old Trafford isn’t impressive, but he has never been fully trusted by Jose Mourinho and the lack of belief shown may have hindered his consistency on the pitch.
Arsenal would be hoping to get the player that shone for Borussia Dortmund during his final season in the Bundesliga. The 28-year-old contributed 11 goals and 15 assists in the league, which qualified him as one of the best attackers in Europe. Despite not being able to find that consistency for Manchester United, he has shown flashes of his ability. This season, he has averaged 2.72 chances created per ninety minutes, which is fractionally lower than the 2.9 that he averaged during his final season in Germany. These dwarf Mesut Ozil’s average of 3.81 chances created per ninety minutes this season, but given the difficult situation the club find themselves in, Mkhitaryan should be viewed as a good replacement.
A change of club could be what he needs to breathe life into his career. The comments from Raiola suggest that Mkhitaryan is unsure about whether to join Arsenal and the current decline of Arsene Wenger’s men is a concern. However, from a personal standpoint, he would be getting regular football for a club in the Premier League’s top six. At his age, that is something that should be too good to turn down as he will continue to regress if he stays at Old Trafford.
It is a deal that would be best for all parties. Some might question why Manchester United would offer one of their own valuable assets to Arsenal in order to sign a player that they could get for free in the summer. If Sanchez leaves on a free transfer, Manchester City would be the overwhelming favourites to sign him and United realise this. Jose Mourinho knows that to get the Gunners forward, they need to act in this window. The next few weeks will be interesting, but if this deal is completed, all involved will benefit.