Breaking Down Henrikh Mkhitaryan's Performance for Dortmund vs. Hertha Berlin

Stefan Bienkowski@@SbienkowskiFeatured ColumnistMay 10, 2015

Dortmund's Henrikh Mkhitaryan  during a German first division Bundesliga soccer match between TSG 1899 Hoffenheim and Borussia Dortmund in Sinsheim, Germany, Saturday, May 2, 2015. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
Michael Probst/Associated Press

Borussia Dortmund picked up another vital three points in their quest for European football next season with a 2-0 win over Hertha Berlin on Saturday.

However, with Marco Reus out injured, the responsibility to guide Jurgen Klopp's side through another tricky tie fell upon the shoulders of Armenian international Henrikh Mkhitaryan. And he didn't disappoint. 

With Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang misfiring of sorts at the moment, with just two goals in his last six Bundesliga games, as well as an out of form Shinji Kagawa and Kevin Kampl, it was Mkhitaryan who stood up and stood out in this rather temped front line. 

Playing on the right side of the front three, the attacking midfielder was the go-to player for all things attacking for Klopp's team on the day. Sure, Kagawa can make a pass and Kampl has heart, but it was Mkhitaryan who was constantly skipping past players and always in the right place at the right time. 

This was best illustrated in the manner of Mkhitaryan's passing which, as we can see from the Squawka graphic below, was seen across the pitch as he drifted from right to left and through the middle of the pitch. 

Squawka

Although we can see that the attacking player was still largely based on the right wing, a number of his passes were directed straight at goal, with a number of short, completed passes on the edge of the Hertha box.

Dragging defenders out of place and drifting into open space is a must for most forwards but is especially important for a team like Dortmund, who have looked so regimented in how they attack this season.

Long gone are the days of Klopp's gung ho football at the Westfalenstadion, yet with Mkhitaryan in the team we see a little bit of creativity that certainly goes a long way. 

Another aspect of that vital creativity is in the way Mkhitaryan dribbles past players with such ease when he is at the top of his game. It may seem like a rather obvious comment to make—that dribbling helps teams attack their opponents—but there aren't many in this Dortmund team who actually dare to do it. 

In Klopp's typical starting XI we'd most likely have Reus as the prime dribbler, with Ilkay Gundogan perhaps taking liberties in the middle of the park, but that's usually about it. Kagawa rarely takes players on, nor does Aubameyang or even marauding left-back Marcel Schmelzer. 

Erik Durm is perhaps the only other exception, as he showed with his goal early in the second half just how much of a difference it can make when a player musters the courage to run past an opposing defender. It's a particular skill. Durm has it, Reus has it and so too does Mkhitaryan. 

The Whoscored graphic below depicts every opportunity the Armenian international took to skip past an opposing player on Saturday, showing just how eager he was to drag his side up the pitch and play direct, attacking football. 

Whoscored

This is perhaps where Mkhitaryan best resembles Reus or indeed offers the alternative to the German star. Like the left-winger, Mkhitaryan enjoys cutting inside and turning back-lines with one-two passes and long shots on goal. 

Unlike Kampl, Kevin Grosskreutz and Jakub Blaszczykowski, Mkhitaryan has lately shown exactly what he's capable of in shaking things up in attack and offering something that Dortmund simply wouldn't have without him.

A welcome sign for a player who Dortmund spent so much money on and entrusted so much hope in bringing them success. This season may well be something of a write-off for the whole squad, but with form like this Mkhitaryan may well be looking towards a very big campaign later this year.

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