Arsenal have finally sold Alexis Sanchez as the Chilean finally departs the Emirates after wanting out from the start of the season. The destination has varied since then as Sanchez makes the switch to the red half of Manchester with Armenian Henrikh Mkhitaryan making the switch as part of a swap deal to Arsenal.
Mkhitaryan has not been the same player that was seen at the start of the season, as he racked up assists in the first one month and a half or so. His form completely dipped ever since, while his performances have been worse. The tough love from Mourinho has not worked in his favor as he has consistently worsened with regards to both his morale and on the field performances.
Mkhitaryan’s dip in form over the past few months should not be mistaken for his quality as he is a more than able attacking midfielder. He has never been quite the player he was at Dortmund in the 2015/16 season under Thomas Tuchel since arriving at United but that has largely been down to not having a coach who plays a system that brings out the best in him. He looks to be the type of player who prefers the hand on shoulder approach than a hairdryer one.
Replacing Sanchez is by no means an easy task. One positive for Arsenal though is that they have already endured half a season of him not playing at his best for Arsenal, which has reflected on their position in the Premier League table.Getting the same direct final third output from a single player who replaces Sanchez is almost impossible considering that players who are capable of it play for arguably bigger clubs and not necessarily realistic transfer targets.
It is a very promising prospect though, that Ozil, Mkhitaryan and Lacazette can play in the front three for Arsenal now. Add to that the increasingly apparent rumours that Pierre Emerick Aubameyang is going to sign for Arsenal, Arsenal seem to be assembling a much potent attacking force of their own.
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If they do stick with the 3-4-2-1 until (if) Aubameyang comes, Mkhitaryan will be a direct replacement for Alexis on the pitch. He has excelled on the left side previously at Dortmund, while he is much more of a threat to the opposition when he plays in a system that is creatively more free and fluid. His runs off the ball will also help displace the opposition as teams more often than not set camp against Arsenal. Playing alongside Ozil will further help him, as he won’t be the team’s only creative source, while also offering the German a passing option in himself.
Mkhitaryan’s driving forward with the ball will also come in handy as Arsenal lack that profile with Alexis gone, while Wilshere is more of a needle player that can resist the press rather than drive forward with power. Aaron Ramsey is a capable player in that regard, but you would take the Welshman for a more arrive at the box late approach rather than a player whom you would have bring the ball out in counters. With both Ozil and Mkhitaryan now in the roster, Arsenal have an able duo in behind Lacazette, irrespective of whether they play the 3-4-2-1 or the 4-3-3.
While this deal is seen more as a win for United, it is the best scenario for Arsenal from what they found themselves in. They have sold a player they were bound to lose on a free in the summer while the morale in the dressing room is bound to get better with this situation cleared up. The vital part of the deal is that Arsenal have brought in a replacement in the same deal and are not short of options up front. Whether Mkhitaryan can put up numbers as well as Alexis did remains to be seen, but it cannot be argued that his profile suits Wenger’s system better and the club might benefit from a more combined approach in the final third than a Sanchez-centric one.
Stated this a few days back on my personal handle, but Sanchez’s departure might do a whole world of good for Arsenal’s morale. He’s a quality player and his quality will definitely be missed, but the morale in the dressing room is bound to improve with the situation cleared now.
— Football Bloody Hell (@fbhfootball) January 20, 2018
Arsenal have replaced Alexis to an extent at least, as they have brought in a player that plays across the attacking third in the same window, in the same deal. It is down to Wenger to get the best out of the Armenian, and one would think that the Frenchman is capable of doing so. Creative players flourish under Wenger and from an Arsenal perspective, you would hope that Mkhitaryan comes good for the Gunners.
All said and done, this seems to be a deal that works well for both parties, the clubs and the players. Both have benefited off this, with Manchester United now having assembled a very potent attacking trio up front. It remains to be seen how these players will affect the existing systems at their club and how they fit into it.