Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has only scored nine Premier League goals this season. Is his place in Mikel Arteta’s side at risk? Watch Arsenal vs Liverpool live on Sky Sports Premier League HD from 7.45pm on Saturday; kick-off 8pm
Jurgen Klopp described Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as a player with “no real weaknesses” ahead of a meeting between Liverpool and Arsenal in August 2019. Klopp, his former coach at Borussia Dortmund, lauded his “incredible” development into a “goal machine”.
Aubameyang was at the top of his game at the time having scored 31 goals in his first full season at Arsenal and hit two in two games at the start of his second. But there are question marks hanging over the striker as he prepares to face Klopp again on Saturday.
It has been a difficult season for Aubameyang. The 31-year-old signed a lucrative new contract in September having played a crucial role in Arsenal’s FA Cup win six weeks earlier but by the turn of the year he had only scored three times in 14 Premier League games.
A two-goal performance against Newcastle in January was viewed a possible turning point but his mother fell ill soon afterwards, causing him to miss a string of fixtures, and while there was a hat-trick against Leeds on his return, he is still struggling to find his rhythm.
Aubameyang has not helped himself in that search for rhythm recently, of course. His lateness prompted Mikel Arteta to drop him for the north London derby win over Tottenham and since then there have been poor displays against Olympiakos and West Ham.
Indeed, in the frantic 3-3 draw at the London Stadium before the international break, there was even the rare sight of the striker being substituted as Arsenal chased an equaliser.
The combination of his new contract and his status as club captain means expectations of Aubameyang are higher than ever among supporters – and understandably so.
At 31, some have even questioned the wisdom of giving him a new long-term deal after the costly saga that unfolded around Mesut Ozil following his contract renewal in 2018.
But Aubameyang’s struggles this season must be viewed in the context of Arsenal’s as a whole.
Arteta talked about Arsenal missing Aubameyang’s goals in the first half of the season but he was not helped by the dearth of creativity behind him. The Gunners struggled to even get the ball into the final third at times, let alone into the opposition box.
Aubameyang may have only mustered three Premier League goals during that period but according to Opta, he actually performed in line with his expected goals; a clear indication that the biggest issue was a lack of service rather than wasteful finishing.
Aubameyang simply wasn’t getting enough chances. His confidence suffered but he wasn’t the only forward struggling. Up until Christmas, Arsenal ranked 15th in the Premier League for chances created. Aubameyang was in fact their joint-top scorer along with Alexandre Lacazette.
It was only after Christmas that Arsenal finally clicked and started creating more opportunities. Emile Smith Rowe’s introduction to the team was a major factor in the improvement and Martin Odegaard’s arrival from Real Madrid provided another boost.
With two natural playmakers added to the side since Christmas, Arsenal have jumped from 15th to fifth for scoring chances and it is no coincidence that Aubameyang’s output has improved too.
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