Why 2014/15 Is a Make-or-Break Season for Henrikh Mkhitaryan at Dortmund

Stefan BienkowskiFeatured ColumnistAugust 5, 2014

Dortmund's Henrikh Mkhitaryan of Armenia celebrates after scoring during the German soccer cup (DFB Pokal) semifinal match between BvB Borussia Dortmund and VfL Wolfsburg Tuesday, April 15, 2014 in Dortmund, Germany. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Frank Augstein/Associated Press

Borussia Dortmund have welcomed a whole host of new names to their forward line this summer, yet if they want to overcome Bayern Munich this season they'll have to ensure some of their current stars are playing at their absolute best. 

Ciro Immobile from Torino and Hertha Berlin's Adrian Ramos will both add so much to Jurgen Klopp's front line. But aside from Marco Reus' ever-impressive contributions to the side, it'll be one man who should feel the pressure of expectation on his shoulders more than any other: Henrikh Mkhitaryan.

Many fans of the black and yellows will of course be quick to jump to the Armenian's defence, following last season's turbulent season. Yet there's no denying that the forward still hasn't lived up to the extraordinary amount of money spent on him last summer. 

According to transfermarkt.co.uk, Mkhitaryan was acquired for just over £24 million from Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk, making him a standout signing of the summer within German football and a clear call to arms for Klopp's side. 


If we take a look at the table above, which shows Dortmund's major signings during Klopp's reign at the club, we can see that Mkhitaryan is undoubtedly the biggest gamble that he and the club have taken in quite some time. 

There is, of course, an argument to be made that we can't always judge players entirely on their transfer value, but in this case the cost of such a player should be considered as a genuine grievance. Dortmund can't throw this kind of cash around without making sure that they're making a decent return.

Mkhitaryan simply has to get better or risk being labelled a flop.

One of the most worrying aspects of the Armenian international's current situation is just how average a season he had last year. Granted, Dortmund's entire side were far from their best in the previous campaign, but we've seen just 13 goals and 10 assists from a man who is supposed to be the answer to the departed Mario Goetze.

Yet Mkhitaryan hasn't just hit a poor run of form; he's slowed down altogether.

As we can see from the timeline below, depicting the player's goals and assists over the past three seasons, he was on a healthy upwards trajectory in terms of his performances before moving to Dortmund. 


This could of course be put down to a natural acclimatization to a new league—after all, it happens to some of the best players in the world each season—but what would prove vital is how the Armenian reacts to the Bundesliga the second time around. 

Despite Shakhtar's clear quality within their own squad, the Ukrainian league is far from the dizzy heights of the Bundesliga. Until Mkhitaryan can prove that he can thrive in the German division as well as he did in the last, critics will quite rightfully continue to point to the notable drop in goals and assists since moving into the tougher division. 

This will essentially be the season Dortmund's expensive forward proves whether or not he's good enough to dominate the Bundesliga. 

One minor point worth noting as well: the two aforementioned signings that Klopp has made over this current summer transfer window—forwards Immobile and Ramos—and whether they could prove detrimental to Mkhitaryan's development at the club. 

Although the Armenian tended to either play on the left wing or through the middle of Dortmund's attack last season, Klopp could shuffle his entire front line around to accommodate these new strikers. Meaning less time for our troubled forward to get himself back onto his feet. 

Similarly, if Immobile and Ramos do hit the ground running at Dortmund this season, then we may find Mkhitaryan move down Klopp's pecking order altogether. With every potential goal or assist created by the Italian and Colombian duo, our Armenian forward's reputation could find itself growing ever smaller in the locker rooms at the Westfalenstadion. 

Mkhitaryan has to step up this season and be counted as one of Dortmund's best, or he could risk being left behind altogether.