Henrikh Mkhitaryan made headlines last week for his two-goal performance for Borussia Dortmund, in the club’s 2-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt. Heno, who scored his first Bundesliga goal that day, managed to pick up a brace, and while the two goals gave his side the win, they also symbolized perfectly the kind of player that he is. These two goals are the kind of goals that fans of Shakhtar Donetsk and the Armenian national team have seen countless times before.
For Dortmund fans, these two goals, scored against Eintracht Frankfurt, is but a sneak preview of what is to come. Mkhitaryan’s two goals were very different, and yet, both encapsulate the kind of player that he is. His is a talent that can be, at once, flashy and exciting or quite, subdued but deadly. He is not like Mario Götze, in this regard, in that players who mark Mkhitaryan have trouble committing to him with his slow, tempered approach forward, and yet, if you give Mkhitaryan an inch of space, it’s enough for the Armenian international to slot home a goal.
The first goal, set up perfectly by Jakub Błaszczykowski after intercepting the ball in midfield, was slotted away by Heno with a finesse touch of the left shoe. It slipped past the keeper and opened the Armenian international’s goalscoring account with Dortmund, in as simple a way as possible. This is Mkhitaryan’s silent side. It is his ability to remain cool under pressure and slip by defenders that makes him such an attacking talent.
The first goal of the game was not just Mkhitaryan’s first in a Dortmund shirt, but his first of many more, should his performances for the national team and for Shakhtar Donetsk be any indication. His time in Donetsk was riddled with these kinds of goals. It was a well-established routine for Willian to find Mkhitaryan making a slow, deceptive run passed enemy defenders before dragging his leg and scoring a one-touch goal. Nothing fancy, nothing exceptionally pleasing to the eye, but oh so very efficient. For a side built on this very characteristic, Mkhitaryan’s efficiency gives Jurgen Klopp a ready-made replacement for his departed German midfielder, Götze. His goalscoring celebration, too, is a testament of this style of scoring.
Never more than a simple jog, arms perched at his sides, a slight smile painted on his face. It’s as though Mkhitaryan knows that the goal was simple enough, not warranting a backflip or anything too gaudy. A high five with teammates and a goal on the scoreboard is more satisfying, anyway. Yet, beneath the surface of this silent maestro, there is another layer of goalscoring threat, one that manifests itself in the beauty of a long-range strike. The second goal Mkhitaryan scored against Frankfurt came from a solo run, when he cut in from the right and shot with intent outside the box. This is another one of Mkhitaryan’s specialties. He has scored from well outside the box on numerous occasions and while this has earned him a reputation in Ukraine, it’s a fact thatBundesliga sides have to learn quickly and adjust accordingly to. Mkhitaryan is capable of picking out the perfect moment to shoot and while his footwork and movement make him a dangerous player in midfield, he does not have that aura of danger that other players like Arjen Robben or Franck Ribery have – not yet, anyway. It’s a reputation that has been earned by the latter two and while Mkhitaryan is a new face in the Bundesliga, he will soon earn a name for himself as a dangerous long-shot specialist. He is also a very strong free kick taker, and has scored plenty of goals from well outside the box off a dead ball.
These are Mkhitaryan’s two goalscoring styles – shots from outside the box and tap-in goals from runs behind a defender. You will rarely see Mkhitaryan score off a header, or sway his way through a wall of defenders a la Lionel Messi. Instead, Mkhitaryan’s talent in front of net is encompassed by these two styles of scoring. He’s a one-touch player in the box and a menace outside of it. He lacks the conviction of Robben or Cristiano Ronaldo but he makes up for it with his ability to find space and slot goals home.
He is consistently efficient and disciplined to the point of deception and flashy when needed – a perfect fit for Borussia Dortmund, who are much the same, slipping their way behind the likes of Real Madrid and making it to the Champions League final last season, winning the Bundesliga in recent years passed. A one-touch goal and a long-range drive, the yin and yang of Mkhitaryan’s style, set on display for the Dortmund faithful to enjoy. Henrikh Mkhitaryan has arrived at Borussia Dortmund – Bundesliga defenders, keep an eye out.