Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s stamina and intensity made him the perfect selection for the north London derby, according to Unai Emery.
Our head coach picked Mkhitaryan ahead of Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for Saturday’s game against Tottenham - and the decision was hotly debated by our fans ahead of kick-off.
But Emery’s call was vindicated by Mkhitaryan’s relentless running, plus the pass that led to us winning a late penalty at Wembley.
What happened next was deeply frustrating, but you couldn’t fault the contribution of our Armenia international.
“He can do it, because physically he has a big [capacity],” said Emery.
“He can get to the two boxes, defensively and offensively. After that, I think he also has the quality to help us in our style of play and for example, he usually can play 90 minutes with being consistent in his work. Another player, maybe, cannot do that with this big intensity.
“On Saturday we changed some players after Wednesday, we changed also some players to get fresh players, fresh energy and I think it's a good combination and was important to help us. Not for winning today, but for being closer to do that.”
Emery went on to explain why he chops and changes his personnel and formation.
“Each match is different, we are playing with a back four and also with three centre backs sometimes, and I think the team is improving and is learning to play different systems. But with the same ideas.
“It's not the same to play with one player or another player, because maybe he has bigger qualities or better qualities more like a winger or like a full back or like a right back.
“For example, it's different to play with Nacho Monreal or Sead Kolasinac. They are two very big and important players for us with their qualities. But one is more offensive than the other. Nacho is more defensive with a big performance defensively, more than Sead.
“But we need to use two players and sometimes with three or four at the back. Above all, to improve and grow up like a player, improving tactical issues and we are doing that. The reason why we are making changes to the system is adaptation to the opposition and also in our best combinations with the players.”
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