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Henrikh Mkhitaryan now requires consistency to live up to his reputation at Arsenal

After an impressive cameo in Arsenal’s 5-1 victory over Everton on Sunday, Henrikh Mkhitaryan now needs to maintain his level of performance if he is to fulfill his potential in the Premier League, writers Jake Jackman.

Jake Jackman

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Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Photo: Reuters

Arsenal were one of the more active sides during the January transfer window and the addition of Henrikh Mkhitaryan could be looked back on as one of the signings of the season.

The Armenian international joined in part-exchange for the unpopular Alexis Sanchez and the Gunners side that played against Everton this past weekend looked to be much freer on the pitch.

It would be simplistic to suggest it was entirely down to Mkhitaryan and fellow new signing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but they clearly had a positive impact on the squad.

This level of performance will have to be displayed on a more consistent basis before supporters get too excited about this representing a new dawn for the club, but the first signs were encouraging.

Arsenal played Everton off the pitch and were out of sight by half-time. The match finished in a comfortable 5-1 win for the home side.

Although it was a disappointment not to keep a clean sheet, the side were near perfect throughout and that gives them something to build on heading into the closing months of the season.

It was a surprise when the rumoured swap deal involving Sanchez and Mkhitaryan eventually went through.

In the modern game, it is rare for straight swap deals to happen and it is even less common for it to involve two clubs that have been fierce rivals in the recent past.

The majority of the coverage suggested that it was a far better deal for Manchester United and it was seen as a sign of weakness from Arsenal.

Considering the form of the two players since arriving in England, that is a difficult viewpoint to argue against.

However, the Gunners will have seen the appeal of signing an experienced international and his first start indicated that he could be a huge success in North London.

The former Borussia Dortmund player made an immediate impact and contributed three assists during the match.

Manchester United had signed him in 2016 to add creativity to their ranks and although he threatened to do that at times, he never found his stride at Old Trafford.

It can be argued that his performance against Everton on his Arsenal home debut was the best of his Premier League career to date.

Given it came just weeks into his career in North London, there is reason to be genuinely excited about what he can achieve in a Gunners’ shirt.

Mkhitaryan was most dangerous down the right-wing, as he twice got free and supplied good balls in for two of Aaron Ramsey’s goals.

However, one advantage of playing him in a front three with Mesut Ozil, Alex Iwobi and Aubameyang was that he could interchange positions as the game progressed.

His second assist came when he moved into a central area and played a nice through ball to the striker he regularly supplied at Borussia Dortmund.

Their previous relationship has allowed both to settle quickly into the Arsenal team and the benefits were there to be seen on the weekend.

The Armenian played only three key passes, which is a surprise considering his influence on the game, but those that witnessed the whole match will attest to his quality.

He looked a completely different player to the one that was devoid of confidence at Manchester United.

In addition to creating several chances and making three goals, Mkhitaryan came close to scoring himself.

He popped up on the right wing in the first half and cut inside before producing a powerful effort that went just wide of the post.

Jose Mourinho was reluctant to give a prominent role to the attacker at Old Trafford as he had doubts about Mkhitaryan’s defensive work.

However, that part of his game was very impressive against Everton, as he won four aerial duels and completed seven ball recoveries.

He attempted 10 tackles in all and was successful in less than half of them (four), but he showed a willingness to work hard and that will have pleased Arsene Wenger.

The next challenge for Mkhitaryan will be to find the consistency that alluded him during his time in England so far.

He has shown flashes of his ability, but he hasn’t lived up to his reputation and his confidence levels dropped as a result.

His home debut should have provided him with plenty of that and it is crucial that he uses that to motivate him over the rest of the season.

If he can maintain this high level, Arsenal will have the player that Manchester United had hoped they were getting when they signed the Armenian.

Jake is a journalist based in the South East. He is a Newcastle United fan and has a keen interest in Dutch football. Jake can be found on Twitter here - @jakejackmann.

Arsenal

One winner and one loser as Arsenal set to retain Nacho Monreal

Arsenal’s decision to keep Monreal will have a major impact on the squad.

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Monreal
Photo: Getty Images

New Arsenal boss Unai Emery is overseeing considerable changes at the Emirates Stadium this summer but the services of Nacho Monreal will be retained.

Highly-linked with a move to LaLiga side Real Sociedad, Mundo Deportivo now state the Basque side have ended their pursuit of the 32-year-old as Arsenal want to keep him at the club and would demand a significant price for the full-back.

Having entered the final 12 months of his contract, the former Malaga man is unlikely to remain at Arsenal for the long-term but the decision to keep the Spain international for the 2018-19 season will have a major impact on the squad.

Here, we have identified one winner and one loser from the latest developments.

Winner: Joel Lopez

Arsenal are set to sign 16-year-old full-back Joel Lopez from the clutches of Barcelona, the Evening Standard states, and will sign a scholarship deal with the Gunners before securing his first professional deal next March when he turns 17.

The highly-rated teenager will join Arsenal’s U18 ranks and will then look to develop into a first-team asset for the Gunners, following in the footsteps of compatriot Hector Bellerin, and Monreal’s experience could provide a key learning curve.

Boasting 22 Spain caps, Monreal is the ideal role model for a young player like Lopez and can help craft the teenager into his long-term replacement.

(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Loser: Sead Kolasinac

Signed on a free transfer from Schalke last summer, WhoScored stats show Sead Kolasinac and Nacho Monreal shared first-team responsibilities last season as the Bosnian appeared 27 times in the Premier League and Monreal featuring on 28 occasions.

However, just ten of those appearances came in Kolasinac’s preferred position at left-back as Monreal was first-choice for the Gunners on the left-side of defence and that is likely to remain the case in 2018-19 under Unai Emery.

While Kolasinac’s versatility is a tremendous asset to the squad, it limits the 25-year-old in his quest to become one of the first names on the team-sheet and Goal state that Arsenal will eye a new signing if Monreal leaves, suggesting Emery does not rate Kolasinac that highly.

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Arsenal

Free agent Max Meyer would be Arsenal’s ideal Aaron Ramsey replacement

The Gunners would suffer a huge loss if Ramsey was to leave but this starlet would ease the pain.

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Max Meyer
Photo: Getty Images

Unai Emery’s work in the market so far at Arsenal ahead of the 2018-19 season has impressed but there is still significant room for concern.

The Gunners added Lucas Torreira and Matteo Guendouzi to their squad following the losses of Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere but are at severe risk of experiencing a huge blow, as Aaron Ramsey’s future remains shrouded in speculation.

Wales international Ramsey, a figure many fans believe would be the ideal captain at the Emirates Stadium, has less than 12 months remaining on his contract and the Gunners may be forced into a sale as they look to avoid losing the 27-year-old on a free transfer next year.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

While Emery himself has stated that Ramsey is a crucial part of his plans for next year, his own admission that he does not know whether the former Cardiff City man will renew should send alarm bells ringing in north London.

“This is one question for the player, the club, but my opinion – I said to them – I think he is one important player for me. I’m very happy with him. Every day every training session he is with the ambition I want. He is working with quality. I want to work with him.”

Unai Emery discusses Aaron Ramsey’s future

Arsenal are confident of securing a deal with Ramsey, according to Football.London, but plans need to be made for the worse case scenario – and the Gunners could find their own bargain in the market in the form of Max Meyer.

Available on a free transfer after leaving Schalke, the 22-year-old Germany international is a target for Arsenal, alongside Liverpool, and Emery’s side are ready to do a deal as long as he lowers his staggering wage demands, according to TransferMarketWeb.

Capped four times by Germany, and a member of his nation’s squad at the 2016 Olympics, Meyer is widely regarded to be one of the best midfield prospects within European football and his versatility means he could easily fill the void left by a potential departure of Ramsey.

(Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

Additionally, his preferred position as an attacking midfielder could see Meyer stand as the best long-term replacement for compatriot Mesut Ozil at the Emirates Stadium, which would then allow Switzerland international Granit Xhaka to partner new signing Lucas Torreira in a deeper midfield role.

While speculation suggests that any more for Meyer does not necessarily hinge on Ramsey’s future, signing the Germany ace with the squad in it’s current shape would leave huge questions marks over who will play for Unai Emery.

Significant depth is required for the gruelling campaigns in both the Premier League and Europa League but a player like Meyer will demand first-team assurances, which he is unlikely to get if Ramsey renews his deal.

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Could Arsenal’s new project lure Newcastle captain Jamaal Lascelles to London?

The Newcastle captain had a terrific debut season in the Premier League.

Liam Thomas

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Jamaal Lascelles
Photo: Getty Images

Newcastle captain Jamaal Lascelles enjoyed a terrific debut season in the Premier League and as such has found himself the subject of many transfer rumours since the window reopened on the 17th May.

However, according to the Chronicle Live, it would take a hefty transfer fee to make Newcastle part ways with one of their prized assets and captain.

Despite this, Arsenal should consider making a move for Lascelles to strengthen their defence and there’s no hiding the fact new Gunners boss Unai Emery is concerned about his sides defensive frailties.

(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

At 24 years of age, Lascelles has the youth and energy needed to survive the harsh Premier League calendar and this is something Arsenal’s defence has lacked in recent seasons; a defence which under Arsene Wenger became lazy and lax.

New Arsenal boss Unai Emery has already invested in Borussia Dortmund’s Sokratis Papastathopoulos to strengthen his back line, but it might take a considerable amount of persuasion to convince Lascelles to follow suit and make the Emirates stadium his new home.

However, it’s not every day a club of Arsenal’s statue come knocking, and to be part of the clubs new exciting chapter may be the perfect antidote to lure Lascelles away from St James’ Park.

“Nothing changes. The speculation might not even be true. Since I was a kid, there’s always been teams interested, speculation, paper talk and stuff on Twitter, and things like that. It doesn’t mean anything to me.”

Newcastle captain, Jamaal Lascelles, regarding the speculation surrounding his future.

But what would Lascelles bring to Arsenal back line? Leadership and stability, two traits that Arsenal’s centre back duo of Laurent Koscielny and Shkodran Mustafi ultimately lacked throughout the 2017/18 Premier League season and two qualities that the Gunners desperately need to be reincorporated into their defence.

It remains to be seen whether or not the new Arsenal boss will break the bank to bring the talented centre back to North London. However, there are not many other defenders in Europe who could come in and do the job as well as the 24-year-old Newcastle captain would.

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