As things stand at the moment according to reports both in Italy and England, Henrikh Mkhitaryan is set to return to North London following his season-long loan spell with AS Roma.
When the two clubs arranged the temporary switch last summer, they agreed on an option to buy, enabling the Serie A side to make the deal permanent for £20 million. However, Roma deem the price far too high given the Armenian’s age and injury record – he just turned 31 last month, and he has already missed 16 games in all competitions this season. He has racked up just seven starts as a consequence, and though he started the Italian adventure better than many will have expected, scoring on his league debut against Sassuolo, he hasn’t been able to keep it going first due to an abductor tear, later to be ‘complemented’ by a thigh problem.
Arsenal are apparently unwilling to lower the price and this development could potentially raise a couple of questions. First of all, if he comes back, where does Mkhitaryan fit in right now?
Unai Emery signed Nicolas Pepe and Dani Ceballos last summer, and the arrival of the pair arguably provided enough for the Spaniard to send Mkhitaryan away. Even Ozil had lost his place in the team, with the formation switched to 4-3-3 and no room for a classic number 10. Mikel Arteta has now switched it back to 4-2-3-1, but even so, the position of the central attacking midfielder is mostly taken by Ozil, while young Joe Willock waits patiently as his understudy.
The other question that the club probably need to ponder is how much sense it makes to play hardball over Mkhitaryan’s price, given not only his age and injury record, but also the fact that he’ll be entering the final 12 months of his contract.
It remains to be seen what Arteta and the Arsenal hierarchy have in mind regarding the former Borussia Dortmund and Manchester United man.