If you had told me in August, on the back of his double two goal FA Cup Wembley heroics that I would be asked to write about Aubameyang losing his edge, I would have laughed. After the striker’s heroics the collective Arsenal fanbase followed the skipper’s social media hints and anxiously took confidence from Arteta’s confidence that his star man would indeed sign a new contract. The relief when he signed was palpable, another RVP situation had been avoided, so who would have thought, 6 months on, the same fans would be questioning the very same player.
Aubameyang was widely criticised after his uncharacteristic profligacy against Benfica and more so after his anonymity against Man City. One of his harshest critics was Jamie Redknapp, reported here, who suggested on Sky Sports after the match, that Aubameyang was ‘past his best’ and had ‘lost his superpower’.
Before I consider my own response to Jamie ‘I used to play for Spurs’ Redknapp I thought we might remind ourselves what the same pundit, said, on the same platform in July, after Aubameyang saw off Man City in the Semi-Final.
“I think [Aubameyang’s] world class, there’s not many like him. He’ll be looking at [the Golden Boot], he’ll be hoping he can get the Golden Boot. He’s one of the best players in the world at what he does. I think, of course age is against him, but he looks like he’s not slowing up. He’s fit, he’s got a great attitude for the game, wants to score.”
Are to believe that our Gabonese talisman of 2020, has changed from a world class, Golden Boot contender, to past his best in 6 months, as Redknapp suggests?
The answer is perhaps someone in between the headline seeking pundit’s laughable and extreme opposite contentions. The truth is that if you look at the history of the hugely physically demanding Premier League, that there are very few strikers who have had stellar goal scoring seasons into their thirties. Of course, Aubameyang, is not likely to be as fast at 32 and he was at 29, so the question is more how the player can adapt his game and will his manager Arteta want to deploy tactics to suit.
Because while he may not have the same lightening pace to win every foot race, he can still use his experience to arc and time his runs, placing the onus on the creative elements in our midfield three to find him. For my money, I hope Arteta perseveres with his captain through the middle, as we say how well it can work against Leeds but Aubameyang MUST be willing to adapt, work and improve the elements of his game that do not come naturally so the team and he can benefit from the thing he does do naturally, finish!
As I wrote a few weeks ago Aubameyang to successfully play centrally has to drop and link the play. He needs to be involved early in the attacks with improved up play, to begin the moves that he can finish. He did this admirably against Leeds and yet against City, nothing stuck to him, and he failed to bring Odegaard and Saka into play. Our captain can perform this role, we have all seen him do it. His display away at Valencia in the Europa League Semi, was, as I recall a perfect centre forward display.
I believe, if he last lost a yard or pace then it is more reason to stick with him through the centre, as he offers less creativity from the left than Pepe, Saka or Smith-Rowe, but he is a far more lethal finisher than Lacazette, who tellingly has not been offered a contract extension. Aubameyang was lethal from the left, but that was far more often in the 343, set up for the counterattack. The role still allows his to drift and interchange when appropriate and we will still see him cutting in from the left at times, as we did for his first against Leeds. He can still play there too when the game dictates that style but in most matches when Arsenal are on the front foot, needed to break down stubborn, organised defences we need our striker in the current 4231 involved in the build up and on the end of things.
I would sooner this was Aubameyang than Lacazette, but the former must step up to the central role and earn the right to play that position. I believe he can and will take the opportunity between now and the send of the season. I hope that starts this evening against Benfica and we see a display to make Redknapp eat his most recent words, but then Sky don’t have European football do they?
This is my full, unedited version of my Fan’s Column for Sun Arsenal yesterday.
Passionate fifty-something Arsenal supporter who has been making the journey to N5 regularly since the early 1980s – although his first game was in 1976. Always passionate when talking about The Arsenal, Dave decided to send a guest blog to Gunnersphere in the summer of 2011 and has not stopped writing about the Gunners since.
He set up his own site – 1 Nil Down 2 One Up – in February 2012, which he moved on in 2016 to concentrate on freelance writing and building Gunners Town, which he launched with Paul in 2014.
The objective of GT was to be new and fresh and to give a platform for likeminded passionate Arsenal fans wishing to write about their team. Dave still of course, writes for the site himself and advises the ever-changing writing crew.