The smile was back on Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s face moments after he spectacularly scored Borussia Dortmund’s opening goal against SC Paderborn on match day 29 in the Bundesliga. In the 80th minute he added a wonderful assist to his performance when Shinji Kagawa’s goal made it 3:0.
Mkhitaryan, however, has struggled to retain the form of his last two season where he was top scorer of the Ukrainian Premier League with 25 goals in 2012/13, justifying the €25 million Dortmund paid for the offensive midfielder in what was in many ways a difficult transfer. Mkhitaryan’s first season at Dortmund was also promising as he finished the year with 9 goals and 10 assists.
Mkhitaryan’s poor form became the synonym for an entire club that stumbled from one poor result to another. By the winter the BVB even briefly flirting with relegation, a far fall for a club that only two years ago battled for Europe’s crown at the Wembley Stadium.
In March Germany’s Die Welt newspaper added Mkhitaryan to a list of players that have become the face of Dortmund’s poor transfer policy, stating that “at no point the player has justified the high transfer sum that the club paid for him in June 2013.”
While this is certainly true for the current season, this assessment completely ignores Mkhitaryan’s first season at the club, which included several magnificent performances including a breath-taking game against Bayern Munich in a 3:0 win by Borussia Dortmund in the Allianz Arena.
Football, however, is a fast business and the press has long forgotten the highlights of Mkhitaryan’s early career at Dortmund and the focus is now on what has gone wrong with the Armenian’s form at the club this season. In most games this year Mikhitaryan struggled to be integrated in Borussia’s attacking game.
His pass completion rate of 73.5% is far below that expected of a player of his calibre, for example Mario Götze who Mkhitaryan replaced in 2013 had a pass completion rate of 83.4% at his last season in Dortmund. But perhaps even worse than his passing is Mkhitaryan inability to score goals this season as he only scored twice this year a far cry from the 25 goals he scored two years ago for Shakhtar Donetsk.
While Mkhitaryan is without doubt a magnificent player the recent drop in form suggests that Dortmund may have failed to integrate the player into the squad on a personal level. As Futbolgrad has learned from sources close to the player, Mkhitaryan has been unhappy that Borussia coach Jürgen Klopp moved him away from the centre midfield position to the wings were he feels that he is not as well integrated in the game. According to our source Mkhitaryan also has had a hard time being accepted in the Borussia Dortmund dressing room, and at times feels that players have ignored him on the pitch on purpose.
This story is further backed up by an interview that Mkhitaryan’s agent Mino Raiola gave in February in which he stated that: “Henrikh wants to leave Dortmund at the end of the season” as Mkhitaryan is unhappy with his life in Germany.
At the same time, however, Mkhitaryan’s form, and the reaction by his teammates after his goal suggest that perhaps Mkhitaryan’s situation can still be salvaged at Dortmund. With Klopp now leaving at the end of the season much will depend on whether or not Thomas Tuchel can coax the player back to form, but Tuchel could also sell Mkhitaryan to bring in other players that better fit his coaching style, but either way Mkhitaryan will be the synonym for the winds of change at the Signal Iduna Park.