AS Roma signed Arsenal midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan on a season-long loan deal on deadline day, with an option to buy.
Mkhitaryan joined Arsenal in the January transfer window of the 2017/18 season from Manchester United in a deal that saw Alexis Sanchez move the other way, after feeling inadequate at the Manchester club.
Before the pressure of the Premier League, Mkhitaryan played in Ukraine and Germany for Shaktar Donetsk and Borussia Dortmund respectively, where he made a name for himself and reintroduced Armenians to the football world. During his time at Shakhtar, Mkhitaryan earned comparisons to Zinedine Zidane as he registered an average of three goal involvements every four games including a league record 25 goals in the 2012/13 season, winning the Ukrainian Premier League footballer of the year in the process.
In Germany, Mkhitaryan became renowned as one of the best midfielders in Europe, using his creative and goalscoring abilities to help propel Dortmund to a DFL-Supercup in 2014, registering the registered the most assists in the Bundesliga (15) which ranked him second for the most in Europe. In 2016/17, Mkhitaryan became the first Armenian to play in England when he joined Manchester United in a deal worth £30 million (€34.3 million).
Mkhitaryan is an attacking midfielder who is also capable of playing as a supporting striker and as a winger. He best performs when he is played through the centre behind the striker because of his ability to draw away opposing defenders, creating space for his teammates to exploit courtesy of his offensive movement, technique, and vision. He is also a good passer of the ball, a good dribbler and a good worker off the ball.
His time in the EPL has been topsy-turvy and he has gone from a world-renowned midfielder to a shadow of himself. Deployed mostly down the wings in his three years in England, he was not afforded the time and the space to play his football, and with the unforgiving atmosphere in England, he quickly slipped down the pecking order in Manchester United and then at Arsenal.
Now he begins a new chapter, at 30 years of age, in Serie A with Roma, but how will he fit into the club’s style and how can he regain the form that saw one of the biggest clubs in the world get interested in him?
In new coach Paulo Fonseca, the Giallorossi have gotten themselves a gaffer who will break the Italian stereotype, much like Maurizio Sarri of Juventus, by attacking opponents to win the ball back. In attack, he prioritises ball control, one-two passes, wide plays, and through balls. This will require a midfielder who is as comfortable on the ball as Mkhitaryan is (or used to be) to help receive the ball from the wide plays and play a one-two with them as they break into the opposition’s penalty area.
Although Roma already has these kinds of players in Cengiz Ünder and Nicolo Zaniolo, the experience of Mkhitaryan may be what Fonseca just needs to properly cement his style of football in the Stadio Olimpico.
Ahead of his new chapter in Rome, Mkhitaryan has been quoted as saying, “It’s a great opportunity for me to begin a new chapter, with a great club. I know what this club is all about and I am sure we can achieve great things together.”
This could be the boost the Armenia international, who had 13 assists and scored nine goals for Arsenal in 59 appearances, and five goals in 39 for Manchester United.