I think I owe Mkhitaryan an apology

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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.

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