Is it Decision Time for Arteta on Pierre Emerick Aubameyang?


Manager and Skipper

In recent columns I have argued that Arsenal Skipper, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, can play the central role, in Arteta’s preferred, though flexible 4231. In my own mind I have been weighing up what he offers in the role and comparing it to what Lacazette offers and, in truth, trying to convince myself that our Gabonese talisman edged it.

Admittedly the thought process will undoubtedly have been influenced by the fact that the club has committed to Aubameyang and him to them, on an extended contract with a high wage attached, whilst Lacazette, seemingly has not been offered a new deal. No Arsenal supporters want to see another Ozil situation on the horizon, so I am sure most would love to see a happy Auba, smiling on the pitch and scoring for fun. However, this is perhaps not the player we have at present.


Not smiling as much

Against Tottenham and again in the second half comeback at the London Stadium, Lacazette illustrated quite clearly the attributes required of a sole striker in this formation, with excellent hold up play, the ability to bring the three players behind him into play and crucially an incredible work ethic. Aubameyang can do this dirty work, when he puts his mind to it, and he is clearly a more accomplished finisher that his French teammate, but he had not shown that he is willing to do the less glamourous side of the role consistently. Jumping for headers he may not win, chasing down lost causes and leading the press are firmly NOT phrases you would associate with Aubameyang.

Of course, these are not his strengths and the simple answer, and perhaps the answer last season, was to evolve a system, or way of playing that simply played to his attributes. After all we have seen Arteta do this with the lopsided 343 last season to great effect. Graham forged a team designed simply to get the ball to Ian Wright, however unattractive that may have been and Wenger, did it latterly for Henry one might argue. In all cases, setting up the team to service a lethal finisher worked to a degree, but in all cases, it made Arsenal less attractive to watch.


Superior Hold up and link play

Moreover, something else has changed for Arteta since last season that will have changed his thinking dramatically. In the past for Wenger, Emery and Arteta, it was relatively simple to set the team up to play to Aubameyang and Lacazette’s strengths, by playing the French striker up top and Aubameyang from the left. So, what has changed to prevent Arteta, reverting to this plan, as we saw him do at West Ham?

What has changed is the emergence of Smith Rowe, the arrival of Odegaard, the amazing consistency of Saka and the pressing claims of Pepe. The first three particularly, move the ball quickly around the edge of the opposition area and a striker they can run beyond for a flick around the corner, or a quick give and go, makes Arsenal more effective, so Lacazette works better. Add to this that placing our skipper back on the left, will lose one third of the creativity and vision in the three behind the main striker.

The dilemma for Arteta therefore seems to be how to find a way to fit his captain not the starting 11, without lessoning the effectiveness of the team as an attacking force. He has too many top-class creative influencers to not use them, but can he find a way to get Aubameyang’s goal threat into the team, without impacting the fluidity. Even the simple things that can be easily overlooked, like how Smith Rowe and Saka as inside forwards allow their fullbacks to bomb beyond them are now crucial in how Arteta wants his team to play.


When the team was set up for Auba

Without doubt our young Spanish deep thinker has some new deep thinking to do in the coming weeks. Either he needs to sit his captain down and explain what more he has to do in either role and make a decision on which, from the left or as the sole striker, or the alternative is the one that would have been unthinkable at the end of last season.  Of course, it is not Arteta’s role to negotiate contracts, it is his role to produce a winning team. However, to have the club’s highest earner and captain on the bench as a game changer, so soon after the Ozil debacle is a huge call for a young manager to make. I watch with interest so see how this plays out.


This is the full unedited version of yesterday’s Sun Football Fan’s View

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4 Responses to Is it Decision Time for Arteta on Pierre Emerick Aubameyang?

  1. jjgsol March 24, 2021 at 1:15 pm #

    I am convinced that Arteta does not want Auba and is working on ways to lose him.

    He would not want to Ozil him, because, in the absence of any political statements against the Chinese that could be used as an excuse, as was done with Ozil, to exile Auba as he did with Ozil would most likely be deeply unpopular, so what he does is play him out of position, keep him isolated on the pitch and make him unhappy, so he will be keen to move.

    This is all calculated and planned.

    Incidentally, I am not convinced that he wants ESR either.

    Let us see how often he starts in the next few games.

    Arteta wants players to do exactly what they are told.

    Having 2 players who work on instinct is likely to be against his ethos.

  2. @larsduvander March 24, 2021 at 5:34 pm #

    Hi Dave,
    It’s an interesting one, but it actually leaves me pondering another question that I think follows from this. If he now truly feels he has found a balance that works with to creative wingers in saka and smith-rowe and these are the types that work best in his setup – where does that leave Martinelli. He was so great on the wing last year, when he could be direct from there and some have talked about him being the heir to the number ‘9’ spot and take over from Laca/Auba. But do you see him as someone who has the qualities to make the most of that position – does he possess the hold-up play (or the potential of it) in a way that could make him lead the line efficiently with three creative players behind. He can definitely do the dirty work, fight, run and lead the pressure, but I’m not sure how skilled he is in the number ‘9’ kind of link-up play? What do you think?
    Kind regards,

    • Dave Seager March 24, 2021 at 7:28 pm #

      That Lars is indeed the millon dollar question. A player who would sit wonderfully in a Salah/Mane role in a 433.
      Can he play the sole striker role in a 4231? I think yes with some tinkering to him and the system.

  3. allezkev March 25, 2021 at 8:47 pm #

    Interesting post Dave, what to do with a problem like PEA as the team evolves and maybe has evolved away from Auba already? He’s still a great player and despite his in and out form can still be a match winner, but I wonder if the coaching staff are now wondering how to fit him in as our 3 behind the centre forward take on the more fluid Man City style?

    I’m sure that Arteta was heavily involved in the decision to extend his contract in the summer and things have only changed this season after the 3 4 3 system failed to deliver the results it did at the end of last season and he changed to a flat back four.

    Now we seem to be developing a style that doesn’t seem to fit his best attributes and where even Lacazette looks more effective. I can’t see Auba becoming our Aguero but I can see Martinelli filling that role so where does that leave our biggest earner and would Arsenal sell him next summer if a bid came in that was acceptable and what would that bid need to be?

    Given the financial situation of football I’d imagine that there aren’t that many Arsenal players who aren’t available if the price is right…

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