BRIGHTON, England (Reuters) - Brought in to inspire Arsenal to challenge for a top-four spot in the Premier League, Henrik Mkhitaryan has failed to ease the pressure on under-fire manager Arsene Wenger since his arrival.
The Armenian midfielder laboured in Sunday’s 2-1 defeat at Brighton & Hove Albion and did not even finish the match.
With Alexis Sanchez heading off to Manchester United in January, Arsenal looked to Mkhitaryan to create chances for his former Borussia Dortmund team mate Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, just like he used to in the Bundesliga.
It all began so well for the pair as, 37 minutes into their first Premier League start together, Mkhitaryan split the Everton defence with an inch-perfect pass for Aubameyang to score.
Since then, however, Mkhitaryan has not registered another assist in the Premier League, and has created just four chances in three league games as Arsenal slipped to 13 points behind the top four in sixth place.
At the Amex Stadium on Sunday, no player gave away the ball more often than Mkhitaryan and his dwindling influence on Arsenal’s play was epitomised by Wenger’s decision to withdraw him with seven minutes left, to be replaced by a fullback.
It is not the first time that Mkhitaryan’s form has tailed off after showing promise.
“He started well this season but his performance levels, goalscoring, assists, high pressing, bringing the team with him as number 10, were decreasing step by step,” Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho said in November, before allowing Mkhitaryan to leave for Arsenal.
Mkhitaryan struggled to find consistency last season but the start he made for United in this campaign showed promise as he registered five assists in United’s opening three Premier League games.
However, in 18 games in all competitions that followed, Mkhitaryan did not provide one more assist.
A hat-trick of assists against Everton in early February suggested that perhaps Mkhitaryan had found his place, back alongside Aubameyang at Arsenal.
However, a struggle for consistency has hampered his progress once more, just when Wenger needs him most.
Editing by Clare Fallon