For the first time in almost two months, Arsenal picked up maximum points on the road. The Gunners were 2-1 victors on Saturday at Huddersfield thanks to strikes from Alex Iwobi and Alexandre Lacazette, putting an end to their travel sickness.
The victory wasn’t clean and Unai Emery’s team were fortunate to return to London with the three points. There were occasions they seemed out of sorts, without purpose and direction. If anything, it showed the Gunners can go the extra mile to win dirty.
More importantly, the encounter welcomed back Henrikh Mkhitaryan from the treatment room. The Armenian received a knock from Lucas Moura heavy challenge in Arsenal’s Carabao Cup derby clash with Tottenham in December and has been out since then.
Mkhitaryan began the long road to full recovery for the U23’s on Monday. The ex-Manchester United midfielder was impressive as the young Gunners emerged 3-0 victors. He went through 45 minutes without any setbacks.
During his absence, the Gunners lacked creativity, unable to unlock defences. They progressed into advanced areas of the pitch but lack the skill to deliver those killer passes, especially against West Ham United. There was lack of control in possession, with the midfield unable to move the play into dangerous parts of the pitch.
Although not on a regular basis, Mkhitaryan brings this to the table. He is blessed with a tendency to drift inside from his wide positions, taking up spaces that are difficult for defences to track, and progress the play to the final third. When he is on his stride, playing with freedom, he does offer a little unpredictability.
Without Mesut Ozil and Aaron Ramsey, the attacking mantle had befallen Alex Iwobi. The Nigerian has been one of the rare bright spots during this period, but hardly reliable.
More than anything, Mkhitaryan simply adds another attacking body. Ramsey and 19-year-old Eddie Nketiah were Arsenal’s attacking options on the bench at one point. Denis Suarez has joined but still Mkhitaryan would at least be another player who could potentially make an impact while Suarez gets into his stride.