Henrikh Mkhitaryan: Complete Guide to Potential Liverpool Summer Signing

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Henrikh Mkhitaryan: Complete Guide to Potential Liverpool Summer Signing

According to BBC Sport's chief football reporter Phil McNulty, Liverpool are ready to pay £20 million this summer for the services of Shakhtar Donetsk's free-scoring midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

Signing the Armenian international would bolster the attacking options available to Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, whose team was once again heavily reliant on Luis Suarez for goals last season.

Suarez scored 23 times in the Premier League during the 2012-13 campaign, more than double the total managed by any of his teammates. Liverpool added Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho in January and have recently, according to the official Liverpool FC website, agreed on a deal for Celta Vigo's Iago Aspas "in principle," but Rodgers may still feel he needs added punch in the final third.

If the deal goes through, Mkhitaryan would join summer arrivals Aspas (to be confirmed) and defender Kolo Toure at Anfield. Here's a beginner's guide to what Liverpool fans might expect from the 24-year-old.

 

Positional play

Mkhitaryan's preferred role is behind a main striker. "He's a No. 10," says B/R's tactics writer Sam Tighe. "He drifts around, but he's a central playmaker in the teamsheet."

Built using EPLIndex tactics board

Should Liverpool keep hold of Suarez this summer, here's how they might line up to get the best out of Mkhitaryan and help him deliver the kind of influence that produced 25 goals for Shakhtar in the Ukrainian Premier League last season.

With Martin Skrtel possibly on his way out and reportedly a summer target for Napoli, according to the Daily Mail, let's also assume Toure is the new partner at the back for Daniel Agger.

 

Finishing

Trawl through his numerous goal showreels on YouTube and you'll see Mkhitaryan is a threat from distance (watch this for evidence) and can dribble his way to goal (see this goal against Italy). It's his close-range finishing that stood out in Ukraine last season, however.

This clip shows all 25 of his league goals and demonstrates Mkhitaryan's ability to stay composed and beat a goalkeeper with both feet in tight spaces. There's an underlying swagger that will appeal to Liverpool fans and could make him a cult hero at the club.

 

Movement

What really stands out from his prolific campaign last season is Mkhitaryan's intelligent movement. His driving runs into the box were frequently rewarded and frequently went untracked.

He would be subject to closer attention in the Premier League, and his failure to score against anybody, bar Nordsjaelland, in the Champions League last season may also be of concern, but there's no doubt Mkhitaryan has an intuitive sense of where to be and when to get there.

 

Distribution

Mkhitaryan failed to produce an assist in eight Champions League appearances for Shakhtar last season. He did manage seven in the Ukrainian Premier League, however, as per Soccerway stats.

Completed passes vs. Chelsea (away) 12-13 UCL

But there may be some concerns over his general distribution.

If we study his Champions League numbers, Mkhitaryan's pass completion rate of 62 percent ranks him 18th for Shakhtar (UEFA) and would have him below every member of Liverpool's Premier League squad, bar goalkeeper Bradley Jones, for the 2012-13 season, as per whoscored stats.

Rodgers will want better than that. Perhaps tellingly for his potential Liverpool move, however, Mkhitaryan managed 88 percent success away at Chelsea and 77 percent in the home tie, as per Squawka.

 

What the Experts Are Saying

 

Overall

If the deal goes through, Liverpool will be getting an attacking talent with no shortage of technical ability. Mkhitaryan's finishing is razor sharp and his work rate is such that he will drag defenders all over the field when making his trademark runs into the box.

As pointed out by Ayush Srivastava for Goal.com, he may find himself having to make do with a wider role than he's used at Liverpool. He will also be expected to add to his contribution in the assists category—a task that may come easy with the likes of Suarez around (hopefully) to get on to his passes.

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