Henrikh Mkhitaryan insists he has nothing to prove at Arsenal

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Henrikh Mkhitaryan had an outstanding full debut for Arsenal last week.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan insists he has nothing to prove after leaving Manchester United to join up with best friend Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at Arsenal.

The 29-year-old ended a largely unhappy spell at Old Trafford as he moved south in a swap deal with contract rebel Alexis Sanchez.

Despite a big-money move to United in the summer of 2016, Red Devils boss Jose Mourinho never appeared convinced by Mkhitaryan.

The Armenia international often found himself on the fringes of the team but now has a new lease of life at Arsenal, setting up three goals on his full debut in last weekend’s 5-1 win over Everton.

Although he had a rough time in the north-west, Mkhitaryan wants to put the past behind him and find the sort of form that left United and Arsenal battling for his signature when he left Borussia Dortmund.

“I don’t want to find excuses,” he said.

“I don’t want to blame anyone…I am starting a new chapter in my life, in my football career and I am very happy to be here.

“I will be pleased to achieve more than I have done in Manchester, of course. I don’t have anything to prove to anyone. I just have to enjoy myself, do my best and at the end I will see where I can reach.”

While in Germany, Mkhitaryan struck up an understanding – both on and off the pitch – with Dortmund team-mate Aubameyang.

Now Gunners boss Arsene Wenger has reunited the pair at the Emirates Stadium having completed a club-record deadline-day move to bring in Aubameyang from the Westfalenstadion.

The Gabon striker scored on his debut against Everton, assisted by Mkhitaryan, who is delighted to be working with his friend once again.

“I think it could only be in a dream that we could join another club other than Dortmund but I am very happy for that,” he said.

“I have known him very well, he is one of my best friends and the best team-mate I have ever had. I am very happy to have him here and I think all the fans are happy to see him in an Arsenal shirt.

“What can I say? I love playing with him. I can understand him from one step and hopefully for the next games we are going to achieve more.”

Although Mkhitaryan joined United, he has been a self-confessed Arsenal fan for over a decade having fallen in love with Wenger’s attacking philosophy and has lofty ambitions for his time at the club.

“I loved the way that Arsenal were playing at the time, I loved the way Arsene Wenger was treating his players, I loved the way that everything was happening around the club,” he explained.

“So it was just a dream, it was a drive to say ‘why not? I’m supporting Arsenal and I want to play for that club as well.’

“Of course first of all we have to win lots of games. Secondly, we have to think that we have to win titles because at the end of your football career only the titles mean something.

“I think if you play football, it doesn’t matter for which club, you have to achieve the maximum and you have to win titles because if you are playing just to play football it is better to stop playing it, you have to play to win titles and leave your name in the history of football.”

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Leicester winger Riyad Mahrez trains for first time since Man City move broke down

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Leicester winger Riyad Mahrez has ended his self-imposed exile by returning to the club’s training ground this morning, Press Association Sport understands.

The 26-year-old has not trained with his team-mates since Manchester City launched a bid to sign him at the end of the January transfer window.

The Foxes blocked what would have been a dream move to the Premier League leaders for Mahrez, and he has subsequently missed the games against Everton and Swansea.

Reports claim Mahrez has made himself available for Leicester match on Saturday, which ironically is against Manchester City, but at his press conference on Thursday manager Claude Puel said the Algerian would not be involved.

Puel refused to give any indication whether he had spoken to Mahrez since his absence began on January 30, whether he knew the whereabouts of the player, or if he could put a date on a return, with club officials stressing that keeping details confidential is paramount in adhering to employment law.

However, the Leicester boss did say that he hoped to have Mahrez back in contention as soon as possible, hinting that he may need to work on his fitness first. Mahrez has not played since January 20.

“I hope he can come back with a good attitude very soon, this is the best solution,” said Puel. “I hope he comes back and works hard, but he will need time. And time to be match fit.”

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Arsene Wenger calls for cool heads as Arsenal face Tottenham test

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Arsenal won the last derby, 2-0 at home.

Arsene Wenger has warned his Arsenal stars to keep their cool when they face bitter rivals Tottenham as the heated north London derby returns to Wembley for the first time in 25 years.

Languishing in sixth place in the Premier League, Wenger’s side are however just four points behind fifth placed Tottenham.

With their hopes of a top four place and qualification for the Champions League hanging in the balance, the Gunners can ill-afford a damaging defeat at the hands of their hated neighbours on Saturday, while Tottenham are also a point adrift of the top four and desperate to avoid defeat.

Given the high stakes amid the fight for local bragging rights, the crowd of over 80,000 are certain to make it a frenzied occasion.

Wenger knows players can lose their composure if they get swept up by the derby atmosphere.

And, with new boys Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan making their maiden north London derby appearances and Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli in the midst of a diving storm, the Arsenal manager cautioned his players to stay focused.

“There is always huge passion before the game and the emotion at stake that becomes a bit more agitated,” he said.

“It is always a game that is charged emotionally.

“For us, it is an opportunity to come back closer to the Champions League places, which is a priority.”

Although Arsenal beat Tottenham 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium in November, they haven’t won an away league game against their rivals since 2014.

Fortunately, for Wenger’s men, with Tottenham playing their home games at Wembley this season while White Hart Lane is rebuilt, it will be the first north London derby at the national stadium since 1993.

Arsenal won the last North London derby to be played at Wembley.

Arsenal won the last North London derby to be played at Wembley.

Arsenal won 1-0 on that occasion in the FA Cup semi-finals, avenging a 3-1 loss to Tottenham at the same stage of that competition two years earlier.

Wembley is a happy hunting ground for Arsenal’s current generation as well.

They have won their last nine games at the national stadium, including a penalty shoot-out victory over Chelsea in this season’s Community Shield.

Asked if he preferred the game to be at Wembley, Wenger said: “Yes, because we have a positive history there.

“Of course Wembley is a pitch that is quality, a stadium with a big crowd and it is always a special day in your mind so overall, yes.

“At Wembley you play special games where you are under pressure to perform and we responded well to it every time.”

Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech is a doubt having been forced off with a calf injury in the win over Everton last week.

Tottenham are unbeaten in their last eight league games, and boss Mauricio Pochettino has not given up hope of pipping Manchester United to second place.

Defeating Arsenal would help that ambition, while carrying the added bonus of derailing Arsenal.

“I believe we can finish second. Of course we’re going to fight for that to happen,” Pochettino said.

“The gap is not massive but it will be tough. It’s key on Saturday to win the game, to be in the race for the top four.”

Pochettino believes former Paris Saint Germain winger Lucas Moura, who arrived last month, is ready to make his debut, possibly as a substitute.

“I think he will be ready to be in contention for Saturday,” Pochettino said.

“He is starting to feel the legs. We need to assess him, but after the last session I hope we can put him in contention.”

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