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What to Expect from Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Bren from Chiesa Di Totti stops by to give us the rundown on Inter’s new midfield maestro

FC Internazionale v AS Roma - Serie A Photo by Emilio Andreoli - Inter/Inter via Getty Images

With Henrikh Mkhitaryan trading Giallorossi for Nerazzurri, we traced his steps back to Rome and our superb sister site Chiesa Di Totti for the full picture on the Armenian. Site boss Bren was kind enough to share his expertise on what the 33-year-old brings to Inter and what sort of legacy he leaves behind in the Eternal City. A big thanks to Bren for his time!

Winners’ Shoot - UEFA Europa Conference League Final 2021/22 Photo by Tullio Puglia - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images

Q: What’s the Roma perspective on losing Mkhitaryan, especially on a free transfer? What impact did he leave in the Eternal City and how will the Giallorossi replace him?

A: Well, we are talking about a player who scored 27 goals and provided 21 assists across the past three Serie A seasons–pretty much resurrecting his career after a few down seasons with Arsenal–so Roma will definitely feel his absence next season. While I can’t speak for all Roma fans, I think this is a classic case of “it’s better to lose a player a year too soon than a year too late.” I’m not entirely sure why their marriage fractured, but at this stage in his career, I can’t blame him for linking up with a title-contending team; Roma are still a year or so away from even being a top-four contending club.

He only played three seasons with Roma, so he’s not likely to be enshrined in the club’s Hall of Fame, but in terms of low-risk/high-reward signings, he was perfect–Roma got a lot of value out of this signing. Lorenzo Pellegrini has sort of already taken his spot/role as the club’s chief creator, but in terms of simply getting another body in there to replicate Mkhitaryan’s skillset/role, it seems like Lyon’s Houssem Aour is in the pole position.

Football Serie A Roma-Juventus Photo by Massimo Insabato/Archivio Massimo Insabato/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images

Q: What are the Armenian’s biggest strengths and weaknesses?

A: Oof, this one is tough because he does so many things well, but if I’m forced to narrow it down to one or two key areas, it has to be his playmaking and intelligence. I know we’ll touch on this in a second, but in some ways, he defies positions and tactical roles; you just give him the ball and get out of his way. If he were a basketball player, you’re looking at a Chris Paul, Steven Nash type of player: a dynamic distributor capable of creating and scoring in near equal measure.

Mkhitaryan’s biggest weakness is, unfortunately, his age. There are a lot of miles on those 32-year-old legs, so you’re going to see stretches where he seems a step behind but he’s such a smart player that he can almost adapt on the fly. You’ll love watching him play, but you should expect some hiccups, some fallow periods, and, more than likely, a spate of annoying little injuries as he moves into his mid-30s. He’s a whale of a player though, so these are really granular concerns.

AS Roma v Feyenoord - 2022 UEFA Europa Conference League Final Photo by Giuseppe Maffia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Q: How would you utilize Mkhitarayan if you were Simone Inzaghi? Where does he fit in a 3-5-2 formation?

A: As I mentioned previously, he’s almost a positionless player but Inzaghi would be best served to put him in the heart of the action: dead-center and as close to the forwards as possible. That way he can play those little through balls and pocket passes in the final third to the forwards, but he’s clever enough to know when to slow down the attack and play the ball out wide to the wingers. So if we’re talking 3-5-2, you put him right in the middle of the ‘5’ portion, directly behind the two strikers; he could even function as a second-striker in a pinch given how quickly he can read and react to opposing defenses.

Basically, he’s a glue guy; he’ll make the entire attack function with more efficiency no matter where he plays, but I’d imagine Inzaghi will field him further up the pitch to take advantage of his playmaking.