While the headlines emerging from 1. FSV Mainz 05’s Coface Arena following Germany’s 6-1 friendly win over Armenia on Friday understandably centered on the injury to Marco Reus, the impact of one of the members of the losing side has slipped under the radar: that of Reus’ Borussia Dortmund club-mate Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Bundesliga’s official website writes.
The 25-year-old was the hub of Armenia’s play, orchestrating the few attacks Germany allowed them to have from his advanced midfield role, and confidently converting a 69th-minute penalty to level the score albeit briefly at 1-1.
“Armenia are a lot better than they’re given credit for,” said Borussia defender Mats Hummels afterwards. “They’re now ranked 38th in the world and only narrowly missed out on qualifying for the World Cup after drawing against Italy, so we knew that they’re a very good side.”
Hummels was also in no doubt as to who the driving force behind Armenia’s rise is: “Henrikh is an amazing player and he was their most dangerous outlet. We’re very lucky to have him in Dortmund because he’s very good in his position.”
Mkhitaryan’s return of nine goals, ten assists and a 73 per cent pass completion rate in his debut Bundesliga campaign is testament to that, yet it also says much about the 25-year-old’s talent that even more is expected of him. “He had a good season but next year I think he’ll be even better,” said Hummels. “It’s not easy to play against him.”
When pressed as to what makes Mkhitaryan, who was recently named Armenia’s Player of the Year for a fourth time, such an awkward opponent, and why BVB singled him out to replace the departed Mario Götze last summer, Hummels was initially reluctant to reveal trade secrets. “I don’t know if I want to say too much as it’ll warn our opponents next year,” he said, only for enthusiasm about his nimble-footed team-mate to get the better of him.
“There aren’t many players in the world who are that fast with the ball at their feet,” Hummels continued. “That’s the secret: don’t let him get up to full speed with the ball because then it’s very, very difficult to defend against him.”
Just ask FC Schalke 04. On Matchday 10 in the recently-ended season, Mkhitaryan led a breakneck Dortmund counterattack, sprinting the full length of the field, cutting through a wave of Royal Blue shirts before teeing up Jakub Blaszczykowski to tap home and help Dortmund to a 3-1 victory over their arch rivals.
“If indeed there is still more to come from the Yerevan native, Bundesliga clubs could be forgiven for approaching 2014/15 with a sense of trepidation,” the article concludes.