Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s quiet dip in form

Early in the season, Henrikh Mkhitaryan received great praise from United fans and pundits alike as he orchestrated the demolition of West Ham United, Swansea City, and Leicester City; providing five assists as he efficiently dissected opponent after opponent without ever grabbing the headlines. In the weeks that followed, Mkhitaryan continued to be quiet and productive, but the level of performance that fans were starting to grow accustomed to, started to deteriorate. Despite scoring two goals in his last five appearances (in all competitions) for Manchester United, Mkhitaryan’s play has been lacking in a number of key areas.

Not only has Mkhitaryan’s pass success rate been under 80% in his last two Premier League outings, he posted an abysmal 59% pass success rate against Premier League minnows Crystal Palace (Per Whoscored). Furthermore having averaged 2.33 dribbles in those first three appearances, Mkhitaryan is yet to have more than one dribble in any game since. The eye test, in many ways, has been less kind to Mkhitaryan than the statistics. Too often Mkhitaryan has failed to make an impression on matches and although he sometimes pops up with a goal, as he did against Everton, he has all too often allowed attacks to end with him or the person he moves the ball to.

The latter of which is often a result of poor decision-making. Mkhitaryan may complete the pass but the passage of play could have been more fruitful for the team, had he chosen a different option.  An example of this was when United managed a rare counter-attacking opportunity while being dominated by Southampton. While striding down with the ball, slightly to the right of the centre of the pitch, Mkhitaryan chose to play in Romelu Lukaku who was to his right, rather than Marcus Rashford who was to his left. Lukaku was able to fashion a shot on target but the angle that he had to shoot from was far tighter than Rashford would have had to shoot from.

Additionally, the two Saints defenders who were outnumbered on the possession were closer to Lukaku than Rashford, further accentuating the puzzling decision.  United would eventually survive the second half onslaught from Southampton, but one can’t help but feel like it could have been made more comfortable. At the highest level, which United are hoping to compete at this season, the margins between success and failure can be very small and on another day United may have been punished.

The Armenian has been at his best for United when he is attacking space with incisive dribbles and making defence-cutting passes. These are the qualities that earned him his move to United and he is definitely capable of returning to his early season form. It is, however, concerning that just as quietly as Mkhitaryan rose to being arguably United’s most important player, he has receded to being arguably their worst attacker.

Lukaku (against Everton), Martial (against CSKA Moscow), Rashford and Marouane Fellaini (against Crystal Palace) have all put in match-winning performances to ensure that United have not suffered a poor run of results during this period. With Jose Mourinho’s reluctance to field Juan Mata as a no.10 Mkhitaryan is unlikely to lose his place in the starting XI this season but he may find himself under pressure should United dip into the transfer market in the summer.

Manchester United have made an excellent start to the season and have been scoring freely relative to previous seasons so it may seem like nitpicking to criticise Mkhitaryan, but it is worth taking stock of this dip in form just as United are facing its toughest stretch of the season so far, with matches against Chelsea, Tottenham Hotspur, and Benfica in the next month. Although Mkhitaryan’s defensive work rate has been consistent, Mourinho will have to find a way to help Mkhitaryan regain his creative touch and his ruthless streak in order to succeed in this difficult period. As United learned against Liverpool, you may only get one chance to change the result.

Written by David Sagoe


Other news you may also like

July 21, 2017

Undoubtedly the best right-back in England last season, Antonio Valencia looks set to start most matches for Manchester United in the upcoming campaign. However, he turns… Read more

October 27, 2014

It was another roller coaster ride at Old Trafford on Sunday. And at the end of it all, the point feels like a win. Here is what we learned from the draw with Chelsea. Ch… Read more

June 18, 2017

Manchester United is now the richest football club in the world, according to the latest annual list published by Forbes. Replacing Real Madrid at the top of the money li… Read more

April 11, 2017

Manchester United has reached the quarter-finals of the Europa League, playing the role of favourites in a tournament that could prove to be more important than any other… Read more

copyright: MW

%d bloggers like this: