Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s all-round game may just make him a near-essential figure in Fantasy Premier League squads this season.
The Armenian’s potential both for goals and assists should make his cost of £7.0m well worth paying, especially in a season where many of the more familiar names in midfield and attack are more expensive.
With just 180 FPL points across two campaigns in English football, now is the time to expect a personal-best total score from Mkhitaryan.
There is no doubting that Mkhitaryan’s forte is the ability to provide assists for his team-mates, and his underlying numbers from 2017/18 suggest he’ll be one of Arsenal’s chief creators this term. Even in the first 10 Gameweeks of last season, while he was still a regular starter at Manchester United, only three midfielders created more chances than his 23. Just two of those recorded more than his five assists, Kevin De Bruyne (£10.0m) and David Silva (£8.5m), both with six assists in one more appearance than the Armenian. Upon moving to Arsenal in January, only Mesut Özil (£8.5m) created more chances than Mkhitaryan among Arsenal assets, but the Armenian still provided more assists than his German colleague (four to three).
Where Mkhitaryan really stood out across the season was when it came to minutes per big chance, the most crucial statistic given his game-time was limited to just 20 starts. His 11 big chances created in 1,727 minutes of football averaged out at one every 157 minutes. That was actually better than De Bruyne, who topped the charts both for big chances created (19) and FPL assists (20), but could still only fashion a big chance every 162.3 minutes, compared to Mkhitaryan.
GOALS ON THE SIDE
On top of his creativity, Mkhitaryan also offers a much better goal threat than any of the other midfield options at Arsenal. Of the Gunners assets, only striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.0m) had more shots on goal between Gameweeks 25 and 38, the Gabonese international also the only one of Mkhitaryan’s team-mates to best him for efforts in the box and accuracy too. We recently discovered that Özil had the potential to be Arsenal’s key creator this season, but Mkhitaryan’s ability to combine his similar assist potential with better goal-threat than the German gives him a huge edge as far as FPL is concerned, with a saving of £1.5m.
Mkhitaryan should benefit from being deployed on the right flank of attacking midfield for an entire campaign in 2018/19, where he is most comfortable. Part of the reason that he struggled to fit in at Manchester United was because he was used in a central number 10 role, but since moving to Arsenal he has switched back out to the right flank. It was in this position that he was so successful back in his Borussia Dortmund days. He has already reaped some of the benefits of a return to the flanks, with Granit Xhaka (£5.5m) the only Arsenal player to attempt more crosses between Gameweek 25 and 38 – and that was a result of the Swiss international’s set-piece responsibilities.
A full season alongside his former Dortmund colleague Aubameyang will only bring out the best in Mkhitaryan. In the final campaign that the pair were together in Germany (2015/16) at Dortmund they combined for 59 goals and 31 assists between them, their relationship clearly a strong one. That partnership has already been rekindled in part in the latter half of 2017/18. Of the four assists Mkhitaryan supplied since joining Arsenal, half of them were for Aubameyang, who set up one of the Armenian’s two goals in Arsenal colours.
Aside from facing Manchester City and Chelsea in the first two Gameweeks, Arsenal have very appealing fixtures in the early months of 2018/19 which should give Mkhitaryan a clear run at building up confidence. From Gameweek 3 to 10 the Gunners don’t face a single member of last season’s top six. But we shouldn’t necessarily be avoiding Mkhitaryan in Gameweeks 1 and 2. Manchester City are still without their key players as they rest after the World Cup and may name a second-string side at the Emirates on August 12, creating an opportunity for some attacking returns for Arsenal. Meanwhile, Chelsea could take time to adapt to new manager Maurizio Sarri.
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