Mr Inconsistent: What’s Up With Henrikh Mkhitaryan?

Josh Challies

Consistency is crucial in football, perhaps even more so than ability. You can be the best player in the world but without consistency you’ll struggle to kick on, earn regular opportunities or even earn the chance to move to a big club.

It’s why the best players, and the most consistent, are the most expensive every summer but consistency elsewhere doesn’t necessarily transfer into the same in the Premier League, as Manchester United fans will be all too aware of with Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

This year, the Armenian international seems to have enjoyed a purple patch in form as he boasts one goal and five assists in eight Premier League appearances. On paper that’s fantastic but when you look between the lines it’s a different story – Mkhitaryan hasn’t played a part in a Premier League goal since scoring in the 4-0 drubbing of Everton.

His five assists in the league all came in the opening three weeks of the new campaign, with two against West Ham and Swansea City, then securing his fifth in the 2-0 win over Leicester City. In the five matches since, there’s been one goal and no further assists – so what exactly is going on?

The concern for Manchester United is that it’s not just his numbers that have dramatically dropped as his form has too. After being the starring man in the opening few weeks, Mkhitaryan has been sub-par in the victories over Crystal Palace and Southampton, as well as the draw with Liverpool.

Jose Mourinho seems to know the player needs protection of sorts, as he’s yet to complete 90 minutes this season in the Premier League, and his decline in form makes you realise why they’re so heavily linked with Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil – although he too struggles for consistency.

For all the promise Mkhitaryan has shown, he’s not quite the player Manchester United thought they were buying from Borussia Dortmund. He arrived on the back of a sensational season where he secured 15 Bundesliga assists but the signs of inconsistency have always been that.

In the 2014/15 season, Mkhitaryan was regularly absent through injury and failed to make an impression, whereas the season before he scored nine goals and secured 10 assists. That was his first season in Germany and his performances have been on-off ever since.

With Mkhitaryan largely off form last season, and excelling the year before with Dortmund, surely it means that the current campaign is one where he should be shining? It can certainly be expected and the fact that his form has dropped so much is a major issue.

Manchester United are set to be involved in an extremely tight battle with their cross-city rivals for the Premier League crown and they need reliable players, not those who blow hot and cold. Whilst Mkhitaryan’s average match rating remains impressive, the contrasting performances should be raising eyebrows.

It is worth mentioning that, amidst his struggles in the Premier League, Henrikh Mkhitaryan is impressing on the Champions League stage. He’s played in all three games so far, scoring against CSKA Moscow, and has looked a lot brighter than he has done domestically.

That said, he was heavily criticised by Manchester United legend Paul Scholes after his performance in Manchester United’s routine victory over Benfica and there is still a lot more to come from the 28-year-old. If he doesn’t find consistency, then he may well drop out of the pecking order.

Given his current form, there’s certainly an argument to suggest that he should be dropped in the coming weeks and made to work for his spot in the side but it’s a difficult scenario. After all, he’s the sort of player who can dominate a game on his day and you’d fancy him to boost his morale away from home against Huddersfield Town this weekend.

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