Wenger admits Henrikh Mkhitaryan confidence fears

Arsene Wenger is concerned Henrikh Mkhitaryan may have suffered a hit to his confidence after a largely-disappointing stint at Manchester United.

The Armenia international joined the Gunners on Monday in exchange for Alexis Sanchez, ending a see-saw 18-month spell at Old Trafford.

Mkhitaryan was a target for Arsenal before he moved to United in the summer of 2016 but he did not settle into the side and was often left on the sidelines by Jose Mourinho.

Now he has a chance to reinvigorate his stalled career in north London and Wenger has backed the 29-year-old to do so following his challenging time with the Red Devils.

“Yes, of course you worry about how much it has affected him,” he said.

“But as well it’s a new chance for him, what you want in life is a new chance and I’m sure with his quality he will take it. I met him at the time (he moved to United), at the time we were close but in the end it didn’t work.”

Wenger insists he can incorporate Mkhitaryan, as well as another potential new recruit in Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, into his squad as players will have to accept they cannot play every week.

“Some people need confidence and to feel security,” he said.

“But in football teams, there is a number (of players in a squad) that pushes you, a number that makes you asleep, and a number that paralyses you.

“So you have to find the right number in each squad to give fair competition, but as well not be too much in administration, and not to have no chance at all — no matter what happens — to play.

“Some will have to be in and out. But on the other hand, we have seen that (Aaron) Ramsey has been out injured many times, Jack Wilshere as well.

“We play in many competitions and you have a number you can fit in.”

Wenger went on to suggest he could ask Mkhitaryan, who is cup-tied for tonight’s Carabao Cup semi-final second leg against Chelsea, to play in an unfamiliar role moving forward.

“He can play in different positions,” the Frenchman added.

“But personally I first see him first in a wide position, but I’m thinking about him a possibility to play through the middle.”

Pushed on whether that meant deploying Mkhitaryan as a number 10, Wenger replied: “Or maybe even deeper...”

Despite scoring in the Europa League final, Mkhitaryan missed out on United’s EFL Cup success last season due to injury and cannot play for Arsenal this season.

Wenger has won three FA Cups in the past four years and, although the Frenchman has never won the League Cup in any of its guises, he believes even success this time around would not be enough to stop the media questioning his position as Arsenal boss.

“Look, we have been in a few finals,” he said.

“Has it changed your (the media’s) mood? No.

“You celebrate some teams who have not been in a final for 25 years and yet you kill us even though we have won the FA Cup three times in the last four years.

“It’s like that, we have to live with that. I have no illusions at all. The mood is decided by you (the press).”

Sanchez’s departure had been on the cards for some time when it became apparent he would not sign a new contract at the club.

Ex-Arsenal defender Martin Keown labelled Sanchez as the “biggest mercenary in football”, accusing the Chile international over moving purely for financial gains.

But Wenger defended Sanchez’s decision and revealed the 29-year-old was prepared to play for the club against Crystal Palace last Saturday before the deal with United was finally struck.

“He can combine both,” Wenger said when asked if Sanchez left for football or financial reasons.

“I think he goes to a great club and gets a great contract so you can understand it when a professional player can combine both aspects.”

Wenger also confirmed a deal for Borussia Dortmund forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is under discussion.

The Gabon international forward has been strongly linked with the Gunners and Wenger says talks are underway.

Asked if he was confident of completing a deal for Aubameyang, Wenger said: “Confident or not confident, I don’t know. You never know how close you are.

“This is the kind of thing — he is one of the possible movements, but we have other things in mind as well. We have plenty of opportunities and the final decision is not made.

“At the moment we are not close to any deal, Aubameyang or anybody else.”

Asked if Arsenal forward Olivier Giroud could go to Dortmund as part of any deal, Wenger said: “The negotiations are not as far as that.”


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