Arsenal’s Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech (2L) sits injured during the English Premier League football match between Arsenal and Everton at the Emirates Stadium in London on February 3, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / IKIMAGES / Ian KINGTON
Arsene Wenger says the instinctive understanding between old friends Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan can transform Arsenal’s turbulent season.
Aubameyang marked his Arsenal debut with a goal in Saturday’s 5-1 demolition of Everton, while Mkhitaryan provided three assists in his first start for the Gunners.
The swaggering show from the former Borussia Dortmund team-mates was a much-needed boost for Arsenal boss Wenger after a difficult January that saw Alexis Sanchez force through a move to Manchester United, while the north Londoners struggled on the pitch.
Gabon striker Aubameyang joined from Dortmund on deadline day for a club record £56 million, reuniting with Armenia midfielder Mkhitaryan, who arrived earlier in the window from United in a swap deal for Sanchez.
While Aaron Ramsey scored his first career hat-trick against Everton, it was the promising partnership between Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan that stole the show.
“Overall, the two players integrated well into our game and they looked as if they had played for us forever,” said Wenger.
“They have similar qualities to what our game is about. Technically, they are good. They are quick and overall it was a first convincing performance.”
Aubameyang was a constant menace with his pace and energy and, while his goal was fortunate given he was offside when he ran onto Mkhitaryan’s pass, there was enough quality on display to suggest he may keep the misfiring Alexandre Lacazette on the bench for the foreseeable future.
“The quality of his movement and finishing was excellent. He gives problems to defenders with his movement, he is always looking to go into spaces that are difficult to cover,” Wenger said.
“When he gets ahead it is hard to catch him. When we understand him better we can make more of that.
“He is not at his best physically and still has some work to do on that, but the price is reasonable I think, overall for that quality of striker in today’s market.”
Mkhitaryan struggled to make an impact at United, but he looked revitalised at the Emirates Stadium, linking with Aubameyang and Mesut Ozil to devastating effect as Arsenal tore Everton to pieces with four goals in the first half.
“He is a good link player and he works very hard as well,” Wenger said.
“Overall, I think he looked well-accepted by the rest of the team and was understanding very well how we want to play. I can say is that it was a convincing debut.”
– Ice-cool Ramsey –
Wenger also reserved praise for Ramsey as the Wales midfielder finally took his manager’s advice to stay cool in front of goal.
“I felt always — when I watched the games after on the video — you think always that he is there in a good position in the box and I felt always that he had between 10 and 15 goals at least in his locker,” Wenger said.
“He didn’t do it until now because I think he rushed, sometimes, with his finishing. He looks much calmer.”
Everton boss Sam Allardyce was furious with his side’s display as they tarnished his 500th match as a Premier League manager.
“I’m angry because accepting an instruction is the players’ responsibility at this level of football,” he said.
“We tried to give those instructions. There was a very good performance by Swansea on Tuesday against Arsenal and we based our plan on that.
“We set out to play like that, unfortunately Swansea played at the top of their game and we played at the bottom.
“That is why we were tumbling goals left, right and centre with our pathetic performance. None of it was any good. All the team played crap.”