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Miki, Auba & Diamond Eye: Why Arsenal are changing for the better

COMMENT: Change. Transition. Whatever you wish to call it. It never runs smoothly at a football club. But Arsenal fans should be bouncing today. The overhaul running through London Colney is on the right track.

Saturday's rout of Everton won't be happening every week. Like any team undergoing change, there'll be slips - blips - along the way. But Arsenal supporters now have something to grab hold of. On and off the Emirates pitch, the changes that have been put in place are proving positive.

On the ground, well it writes itself. Henrikh Mkhitaryan's three assists were the first from a player in an Arsenal shirt for over over four years. Not since May 2013, when Santi Cazorla produced four assists in victory over Wigan Athletic has a Gunners man been able to get close to that mark. The Armenia international looked a natural, with Aaron Ramsey benefiting most.

After his hat-trick, Rambo said of his new teammate: "We've seen glimpses in training and we were just waiting to see it on the pitch. As you can see from today, he's just an amazing player."

Another of the new lads also was off to a flyer. He wasn't even supposed to make the bench, a dodgy belly had him in doubt, but Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, like Mkhitaryan, slotted smoothing into Arsenal's starting XI. A goalscoring debut in a 5-1 triumph - it just couldn't have gone better for the Gabonese.

"I'm already loving it here," Aubameyang said at the final whistle, "I think Arsenal's style suits me."

The influence of good friend Mkhitaryan can't be discounted on Aubameyang's smooth introduction. At Borussia Dortmund, they combined for a staggering 121 goals and 80 assists during their three seasons together. It was always going to happen that it would be Mkhitaryan who laid on Aubameyang's first for the club.

Arsene Wenger, the Gunners manager, will now be hoping they can replicate that success in North London. And on Saturday's evidence, even the most pessimistic at Arsenal Fan TV wouldn't be betting against it.

Certainly Leon Slutsky, the former Russia coach and Hull City manager, is convinced Mkhitaryan will be good for Aubameyang.

"Henrikh is a stable character and a player who can link defence to attack expertly. Aubameyang is a fine striker, but needs players to help him settle," said the Russian.

"I'm very happy that Henrikh has found himself a team which is close to his philosophy and spirit. My prediction: he will prove even more valuable than Aubameyang."

But the overarching influence on Saturday came from another ex-Dortmund man. Diamond Eye. Sven Mislintat.

The club's new chief scout, it was Mislintat who pushed hardest to bring Aubameyang to London. As it was he who suggested Mkhitaryan in a swap for Alexis Sanchez. The former BVB talent spotter has quickly got his feet under the table at London Colney and shaken things up.

And before anyone claims the German is a one trick pony; just calling in old favours - and old players - from his Dortmund days, don't forget the young Greek defender, Konstantinos Mavropanos, ferried away from little PAS Giannina at the beginning of the January market.

By his own admission, Wenger knew little of Mavropanos. This was Mislinat's signing. Plucked from nowhere - and with the plan to loan him out - the centre-half was viewed as a project player. A typicalArsenal project player, many moaned. Never to be seen again.

Yet, after a week of training with the first team squad, Wenger overruled those plans. Diamond Eye had delivered him a gem. The manager declaring Mavropanos too good to release on-loan. He wanted to keep him close.

And what of Mesut Ozil and his expected departure? Well, that blew up in everyone's faces when he put pen to paper last week. £350,000-a-week is some contract. The biggest in the club's history. But in terms of status, is anyone inside the locker room going to argue against Ozil gaining that?

A first triumph for Huss Fahmy? The contract fixer added to the front office in August by chief exec Ivan Gazidis. His finger prints are sure to be over all over this one, Fahmy is known as a 'closer' in major negotiations.

And there's still Raul Sanllehi to formally kickoff his brief as the club's head of 'football elations' this month. Essentially, the former Barcelona director arrives - if not in name - as Arsenal's first technical director.

So for those demanding change, the place is transforming - on and off the pitch. And from the work in January, to the performance on Saturday, Arsenal is changing for the better.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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