Failed in Premier League Led Mkhitaryan to Success at AS Roma

There are a few top players who have faded away at Premier League clubs and then showed better performance when moving to Serie A. In recent seasons, Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, until Chris Smalling showed it. At AS Roma, apart from Smalling, there is Henrikh Mkhitaryan who has shown his true qualities after going through dismal periods at Manchester United and Arsenal.

Moving when he was 30 years old, Mkhitaryan actually displayed a better game than when he left England. Paulo Fonseca succeeded in refining the talents of the Armenian midfielder. Just arriving in mid-season, Mkhitaryan became a new energy for the Giallorossi’s attacking line, scoring nine goals and assisting six in 27 matches.

In 2020/21, the former Arsenal midfielder’s contribution will be increasingly influential. Mkhitaryan has already surpassed his tally of goals and assists last season. He scored a total of 11 goals and 11 assists in 30 matches in all competitions. This 32-year-old player is also Roma’s top scorer in Serie A with nine goals, the same as the Giallorossi’s penalty executor, Jordan Veretout.

“Roma trust me, you can see from the way I play that I am happy here,” Mkhitaryan told La Republicca newspaper in January. Mkhitaryan’s revival was the result of the coach’s tactical match with the player’s talents. Prior to making Roma permanent, Mkhitaryan had revealed his incompatibility with the role Unai Emery was demanding at Arsenal.

“I play as a winger, but have to build up the game with a defensive midfielder. That’s why I can’t score many goals or assists, “Mkhitaryan told FourFourTwo in 2019. “I want to play more freely and move wherever there are gaps, but you have to do what the coach asks,” he continued.

Freedom. That’s what this Yerevan, Armenia-born player asks for and the factors behind his best game. Juergen Klopp gave him enough freedom to shine at Borussia Dortmund. His attacking focus allowed him to score 11 goals and 20 assists in the 2015/16 Bundesliga, the season that saw Manchester United sign him.

Now, Fonseca is giving the same thing. Mkhitaryan was given some flexibility as an attacking midfielder in Fonseca’s 3-4-2-1 system. He was partnered with Lorenzo Pellegrini and became the creator of the Giallorossi’s main attack. Mkhitaryan mainly operates behind the striker or on the left wing. Its central role is to help and sometimes become a vital point for the pace of AS Roma’s attacks. Mkhitaryan is often present as a passing option in the final third, playing short passes to continue the build up, or making dummy moves to open up space for his team-mates.

The former Manchester United player is also capable of initiating counter attacks. Mkhitaryan’s ball skills have not faded. Together with La Lupa, the player with 88 caps for the Armenian national team was dexterous in dribbling the ball up to or into the opponent’s penalty box. In Serie A, Mkhitaryan has 150 progressive carriers. Progressive carries are carrying the ball forward (at least five yards) into the opponent’s area or every dribble that reaches the opponent’s penalty box. Among the Roma squad, only left back, Leonardo Spinazzola, registered more progressive carriers.

During the attacking phase, Mkhitaryan was AS Roma’s style. The graduate of the FC Pyunik Yerevan youth team has recorded the most touches in the final third (571) and the penalty box (118) among the Giallorossi squad. In this phase, Mkhitaryan’s creativity was important for Roma’s chances creation. He is capable of making opportunities through crosses and through breakthroughs. Mkhitaryan often sent dangerous passes from the half-space area.

The quality of Mkhitaryan’s bait is also very good. His eight assists are the highest in Serie A, the same as AC Milan midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu. Mkhitaryan recorded the highest expected assists (XA) in the league (7.3). The Expected Assist is the value of the bait estimated to be an assist. In addition, Mkhitaryan is also an option for finishing in the penalty box. Seven of his nine goals this season have been scored in the opponent’s penalty box. The player with the number 77 back did not hesitate to speculate with long-range shots. Mkhitaryan’s experiments included creating a spectacular goal against Parma in November 2020.

Mkhitaryan is one of the key players who are expected to be able to bring Roma to the top of Serie A. La Lupa’s target is clear: maintaining the top four posts until the season ends. Rome’s competition to penetrate the Champions League itself is very tight. They are only four points adrift of Napoli in seventh place. Until a third of the season, competition in the top seven in Serie A is still tough.

Fonseca’s foster children are also obliged to maintain consistency in the game, especially against their top seven rivals. This season, four out of five Roma defeats have suffered by their top competitors, namely Napoli, Atalanta, Lazio, and Juventus. Roma itself will face the Fiorentina next. In the AS Roma vs Fiorentina match, Paulo Fonseca expected Mkhitaryan to show his best. Mkhitaryan, along with Lorenzo Pellegrini, were rested when Roma eliminated Braga in the last 32 of the Europa League, 26 February. He will face the Fiorentina in his prime condition.


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