Football

Mkhitaryan delighted to be reunited with Aubameyang at Arsenal

But Arsenal must negotiate Europa League campaign without cup-tied striker

Arsenal playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan is delighted to reunite with strike partner and good friend Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at the English Premier League club.

The duo played together for three years at Germany's Borussia Dortmund from 2013 and their partnership was best showcased in the 2015/16 season when they notched a combined 62 goals and 44 assists across all competitions.

The pacey pair got off to a flying start at Arsenal, after Mkhitaryan joined the team last month from Manchester United, with the Armenian providing three assists and Aubameyang scoring his first goal during a 5-1 league win over Everton.

ROUND OF 32, 1ST LEG
OSTERSUNDS ARSENAL

"We did not have too much time to train together (before the Everton game)," Mkhitaryan told the club's website.

"He came a bit late, like two days before the game and he had been training only twice," he added of Aubameyang's transfer from Dortmund.

A DREAM

"I thought it could only be in a dream that we could join another club other than Dortmund, but I am very happy for that. I know him very well, he is one of my best friends and one of the best teammates I have ever had.

"I am very happy to have him here and all the fans are happy to see him in an Arsenal shirt.

"What can I say? I love playing with him."

The pair failed to impress in Arsenal's defeat by Tottenham Hotspur last weekend, but have the chance to rekindle their partnership during a crucial period for the club, reported Reuters.

Aubameyang, though, is not eligible to play for Arsenal in the Europa League, meaning he will miss both legs of the knockout-stage tie against Ostersunds, with the first leg taking place in Sweden tomorrow morning (Singapore time).

The Gunners were also not helped by an injury to French striker Alexandre Lacazette, whose crocked knee could see him out for up to six weeks.

"It's a massive blow for us, but we have to find a solution. and nobody could predict that," Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger told beIN Sports ahead of the Round-of-32 clash with Ostersunds.

"But football is always unpredictable and it's always a good opportunity to find somebody who steps in and does well.

"He recently must have felt something in his knee. Maybe that's an explanation as to why he wasn't scoring as many goals as he's used to."

REDEMPTION

The setback is a big blow to Wenger, who will see the Europa League as his chance for redemption this season.

He recently revealed that he will no longer rest key players in what is essentially European club football's second-tier competition, behind the Champions League.

A damaging defeat by Tottenham Hotspur last Saturday has left his side eight points off an EPL top-four spot, with only 11 games left to play.

This means that probably their best chance of qualifying for next season's Champions League will have to be via the backdoor - by winning the Europa League.

Following Arsenal's elimination from the FA Cup, the Gunners' next game, after tomorrow's first-leg clash with Ostersunds, will be the return fixture at Emirates Stadium a week later.

They then play Manchester City in the League Cup final on Feb 25, before hosting Pep Guardiola's side in the league four days later.

Football