Mikel Arteta has offered Henrikh Mkhitaryan hope of reviving his Arsenal career, insisting he “always liked” the attacking midfielder and hinting that he wants to see him in action first hand in pre-season. Mkhitaryan is currently on loan at Serie A outfit AS Roma, having scored six goals and laid on four assists in 20 appearances this term.
The Armenian has become somewhat of a forgotten man in north London despite having played for Arsenal in the Premier League this season, including starting the opening game of the campaign away at Newcastle under Unai Emery.
But Arteta has hinted that Mkhitaryan may be offered a second chance at the Emirates, where he has struggled since joining from Manchester United in January 2018.
The 31-year-old was part of the swap deal that saw Alexis Sanchez move to Old Trafford, with both now on loan in Italy.
Across 59 performances, Mkhitaryan scored nine times and laid on 13 assists, but his general performance levels continued from his similarly below-par spell at United.
The Red Devils brought him to England in the summer of 2016 off the back of a stunning year with Borussia Dortmund, mustering 23 goals and 32 assists in 52 games.
But in his time with United and Arsenal since, he has struggled to replicae that level of performance.
Yet Arteta insists he is a big fan of the No 10, who can also play out wide on either flank, and has suggested he will give the player a chance to impress in pre-season.
“It’s a possibility that we have and will consider,” said Arteta when asked if Mkhitaryan could return.
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“I always liked him, he is the kind of player who can fit in any team when he is at his best.
“He needs to do it consistently and here he had moments and that’s what we need to assess.
“Miki is doing really well in recent games. We know the player he’s been, we know his past, and we need to have all the information to make the right decision.”
As a result of their financial situation, with the potential of no European football whatsoever, Arsenal may well decide to keep Mkhitaryan knowing that they may struggle to replace him.
Arteta will welcome William Saliba to his squad, with the £27million centre-back having signed from Saint-Etienne last summer and immediately rejoined the Ligue 1 outfit.
The 18-year-old defender is seen as a key member of the side long term, while Arteta also has an option to sign on-loan duo Cedric Soares and Pablo Mari.
Cedric is out of contract at Southampton in the summer while the Gunners can make Mari’s move from Flamengo permanent for around £8m.
And Arenal legend Paul Merson has warned Arteta that bolstering the club’s leaky back-line, which has conceded 51 goals in 40 games this season, will not be a quick process.
He wrote in his Daily Star column last month: “The defence is going to take time. He’s brought two defenders in with Cedric and Pablo Mari, and he’s got William Saliba coming in from France in the summer.
“Part of me wonders whether he wanted Mari because Saliba isn’t his signing, and there could be some conflict there. But he’s made good signings.”
Merson’s former team-mate Martin Keown meanwhile feels needs to spend on his midfield as well as his defence.
Keown told Goal: “They need to strengthen the spine of the team. The midfield will need to be improved and so does the defence, the results tell you that.
“It’s about what sort of resources Arteta will be given and where he feels he needs to prioritise. I feel he needs to build from the back.
“All the successful Arsenal teams have had a really strong defence and although you can improve things on the training pitch, I think he has to start with personnel.
“You want dominant figures, people who want to organise and win that ball when it comes into the box. So that has to be an area where he wants to strengthen or change who he wants to start with.”
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