Do Arsenal need to prepare for life without Aubameyang?

Written by Dylan Fitzpatrick

February 27, 2021

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has struggled to find form all season, but where has it all gone wrong?

Arsenal managed to tempt the Gabonese forward from Borussia Dortmund in January 2018, securing his services for a then club record fee of £56m – Nicolas Pépé is the only man Arsenal have forked out more cash for, splashing £72m on the Ivorian winger. Aubameyang arrived in North London following a hugely successful stint in Germany, scoring 141 goals in 213 appearances in Dortmund’s famous yellow, carving out a reputation as one of the most lethal strikers in world football. 

Aubameyang continued his scintillating form at Arsenal, managing 10 goals and 4 assists in his 13 league appearances of the 17/18 season. Aubameyang’s first full season in red and white was equally striking, netting 31 times in 51 appearances, and sharing the Premier League Golden Boot with Liverpool duo Mo Salah and Sadio Mané (22 goals). 

The 19/20 season saw Aubameyang reach more milestones and etch his name into the history books. The forward was named club captain, following Granit Xhaka’s dismissal from the role, leading the side to a record-extending 14th FA Cup win, scoring a brace in the final against London rivals, Chelsea. Our number 14 also became the fastest player in Arsenal’s history to score 50 goals for the club (79 appearances), eclipsing club legends Thierry Henry (83 appearances) and Ian Wright (87 appearances).

However, the Gabon captain has failed to match his red-hot reputation this season, drawing criticism from Sky Sports pundit Jamie Redknapp. Speaking after the recent 1-0 defeat to Manchester City, Redknapp claimed our club captain is ‘past his best’ – “He’s going to have moments; he’s going to get hat-tricks. But when I watch him sometimes, it’s like he’s lost his superpower.” The former Liverpool and Tottenham player also claimed that Aubameyang is ‘bullied’ on the pitch, which is hard to disagree with, to an extent. The 31 year-old often looks reluctant to challenge for possession and isn’t the toughest opponent to ease off the ball – John Stones sent him sliding off the Emirates pitch on Sunday. The Aubameyang of years gone by would leave opposition players in his wake, but now he seems to lack confidence in his own abilities, regularly coming out second best.

But what has caused Aubameyang’s drop in form? 

The forward has struggled with personal issues this season, missing a run of games to support his mother, who was suffering ill-health. Thankfully, his mother is ‘much better’ and Aubameyang has been able to return to the side. But perhaps this health issue has been going on longer than reported, taking our captain’s mind away from the game – some things are more important than football.

Aubameyang’s poor form could also be down to Arsenal’s ‘big contract curse.’ Our number 14 ended speculation over his future in the summer by signing a new three-year contract with the Gunners, extending his stay in North London until 2023. The deal is reportedly worth £350,000 a week, making him Arsenal’s joint ever highest earner, alongside recently departed Mesut Özil. Ever since Aubameyang has put pen to paper, his form has not been the same – and that has been true of Arsenal’s other highest earners. Mesut Özil never reached the same heights after signing his £350,000 a week contract. The German was not selected as part of Arsenal’s Premier League or Europa League squads this season, playing no first team football. His contract was terminated in the January window, allowing him to sign for Fenerbahce as a free agent. Similarly, for some reason, Arsenal agreed to pay Willian a reported £220,000 a week following his move in the summer – the Brazilian has been dire ever since he arrived from the other side of London.

Aubameyang has scored 11 goals in 25 appearances this season (our top scorer) – not a bad return, but relatively poor for his standards. Without a shadow of a doubt, Aubameyang’s best trait is his goal-scoring threat. Aubameyang’s hold up play is fairly poor, and he often looks like an isolated figure when playing upfront. Similarly, despite standing at 6ft2, he offers no ariel presence whatsoever. If our number 14 can’t rediscover his goalscoring form, it is hard to justify his inclusion in the starting XI, as he is currently offering little else. A hat-trick against Leeds provided hope of a return to form, or was that just a ‘moment’ that Jamie Redknapp referred to? 

Hopefully, Arteta can help the striker find his groove and re-establish himself as one of the world’s best. But the question remains; Is there a factor affecting the forward’s form, or is Aubameyang simply ‘past it?’ 

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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