While Arsenal fans have kept their eyes peeled for weeks for news that Shkodran Mustafi had finally found a new home, news broke this morning that, less than 24 hours after the North London Derby, Henrikh Mkhitaryan was bound for AS Roma to solidify a season-long loan deal with the Serie A side.
The talks appeared to have manifested in the echo of the whistle of Sunday’s match, as there had been no prior indicator that Arsenal had been shopping around the Armenian attacker.
In true deadline-day fashion, things went from “talks” to “flights” to “medical” in a matter of hours.
And that appears to be that. Aside from the traditional “player holding a kit” photo, Mkhitaryan is, for all intents and purposes, an AS Roma player.
The transfer is beneficial for both parties, but especially for Arsenal. Despite being the Gunners’ top scorer last season behind Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette, Mkhitaryan was wildly inconsistent throughout the Gunners’ multiple campaigns. On his day, he was capable of deft dribbles and lethal finishing, but those days became few and far between.
While Arsenal fans were salivating at the prospect of Mkhitaryan linking up with Aubameyang, the promise and attacking guile that was on full display in his years at Borussia Dortmund had dried up by the time he had made it to North London. His deficiencies were glaring on Sunday as he failed to make a difference as a sub in North London Derby despite being gifted a gilt-edged chance in the box with the game knotted at two apiece.
Financially, the loan will free up the complete unnecessarily £200k per week that Mkhitaryan had been fleecing Arsenal for. On top of that, the Gunners will be paid £2.7m from Roma for the move, which means that Arsenal has made £50m in player sales this window, which is an excellent first down payment on the impending 50 foot tall statue of Raul Sanllehi outside of the Emirates.
Strategically, the loan also opens up more opportunities for the young players on Arsenal’s roster, including Emile Smith Rowe, Reiss Nelson, and Gabriel Martinelli. Mkhitaryan, for all of his experience, was clearly the shell of the player he once was, and Arsenal’s youth have been poised for a break out season since the promising pre-season display this summer. Coupled with the inclusion of Freddie Ljungberg as a first-team assistant coach, and the youth will be more valuable than ever this season.
Mercifully, the transfer seems to be the final nail in the awful Mkhitaryan-for-Alexis Sanchez swap from the winter 2017-2018 season, as both players are now in Italy after underwhelming tenures since the trade. While Mkhitaryan’s contributions on the pitch were minimal, his potential influence on Aubameyang joining the Gunners will always be appreciated.
We knew that the rebuild was going to involve some attrition, but this summer has proven that Arsenal are distancing themselves from a passive past with the help of a very aggressive approach to buying and selling. At this rate, it isn't outside the realm of possibility that Arsenal make more big moves in the winter, especially with defense appearing to be the final piece of the puzzle.
We wish Mkhitaryan all the best in his new endeavor at Roma.