Henrikh Mkhitaryan has explained why he did not enjoy his time playing under Unai Emery at Arsenal. Mkhitaryan joined the Gunners in January 2018 from Manchester United as part of a swap deal with Alexis Sanchez.
The Armenian international was signed by Arsene Wenger and performed well in the second half of the 2017/18 season, making 17 appearances.
Mkhitaryan was joined in North London by his former Borussia Dortmund team-mate Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who signed for Arsenal in a club-record £56million fee in January.
He enjoyed his time with the Gunners, but in April Wenger announced he would step down as manager at the end of the season, bringing to a close a 22-year spell in charge of the club.
That change in manager affected Mkhitaryan’s standing with Arsenal and he scored just six goals in 39 appearances across all competitions under Emery in 2018/19.
After beginning the following season with Arsenal, the 32-year-old was then sent out on loan to Roma and he joined the Italian side on a permanent transfer last summer.
Roma face Manchester United in the semi-finals of the Europa League on Thursday and if they win, the Serie A side will face either Arsenal, or Villarreal, who are managed by Emery, in next month’s final.
That potential reunion has prompted Mkhitaryan to reflect on his time with the Gunners in an interview with The Athletic.
“With Wenger, it was freedom, the freedom to move, to play with the ball,” he said.
“He always wanted to play with the ball. He never wanted to defend because he was always saying if we score more goals than the opponent we’re going to win the game.
“It was a pleasing time. Unfortunately, after six months he was sacked.
“Then there was Emery, so a different approach to football, a different philosophy. It was quite hard for me because I wasn’t playing a lot of the time.
“Most of the time I was sitting on the bench and I never like sitting on the bench because throughout my career I always wanted to play and win something.
“Emery saw football differently and was relying on other players.”
Mkhitaryan has been in fantastic form since making his move to Roma permanent in August, contributing nine goals and eight assists in 29 Serie A appearances this season.
Playing as an attacking midfielder behind a central striker has helped him find the kind of form he enjoyed at Borussia Dortmund and which convinced Manchester United to spend £27million on him in July 2016.
Roma are seventh in Serie A, 11 points adrift of Juventus in fourth, but Paulo Fonesca’s side are the only Italian side left in European competitions.
They face United at Old Trafford on Thursday evening, where Mkhitaryan will be reunited with former team-mates like Paul Pogba, David de Gea, Juan Mata, Marcus Rashford and Eric Bailly.