For all the ability that Henrikh Mkhitaryan possesses, he has a frustrating habit of not showing it in the crunch clashes that define a season.
While the Armenian international enjoyed a positive Europa League campaign with Manchester United last term, his domestic performances were underwhelming for a man who arrived in England with such fanfare.
The former Manchester United star was sold by Jose Mourinho for not delivering when it mattered most, as he was too inconsistent for the Portuguese master tactician. He joined Arsenal as part of the Alexis Sanchez deal to Old Trafford and looked the part on his first start for the club, registering three assists in a 5-1 thumping of Everton.
In Saturday’s 1-0 derby defeat to Tottenham Hotspur, the 29-year-old put in an uninspiring display. Time and again, he was muscled off the ball, offering none of the creativity he is known for, completing no dribbles and no key passes – the two main metrics on which a withdrawn forward is judged.
Mkhitaryan’s performance leads to questions about his big-game mentality. For a player that is looking to rebuild his reputation at the Emirates, it is these games that give him perfect platform to show his ability.
With the race for the Champions League looking like a forgone conclusion, Arsenal need players that can stand up to be counted. While his spell in Germany is fondly remembered for the remarkable numbers he posted, his time in England has been one masked with brilliant moments but majorly fraught with mediocre performances. On his day, the attacking midfielder is one of the best creative players in the world: scoring goals and creating for his teammates. He has 8 assists in the league, which is not bad at all for a player that has had a “bad season”.
The new Arsenal no 7 is not a bad player, but must find it in himself to impose himself on matches. He allows the game get past him most times, and he often appears no different from spectators in the stands watching the game. Time is running out to show he can mix it with the best players the league can offer.