Why Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang alone should not be blamed for Arsenal’s struggles
According to Daily Star, Chris Sutton has branded Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as the worst signing of the summer. He was of the opinion that a lot was made out of the forward’s contract extension and that it was played out almost as a new signing.
However, after his latest showing against Aston Villa coupled with quite a lot of sub-par showings this season, Aubameyang has drawn criticism from different quarters.
Ian Wright did come to his defence saying that his contract renewal and the team’s dip in form were just coincidental. He said that Arsenal were not creating enough chances, which is the real reason behind the slump and not his new contract (h/t Mirror).
What is the actual situation?
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang finds himself in quite a peculiar situation with just one league goal since signing his new contract (h/t NBC Sports), and that goal has come from the spot. That means he has not scored from open play since the opening league game against Fulham. He did score once in the Europa League though, during that time.
This has resulted in fingers being pointed at him as Arsenal have suffered some losses against the likes of Manchester City and Leicester. Add to that, Aston Villa absolutely toying with them. In most of the losses, Aubameyang cut a frustrated figure, unable to influence the game at all.
Blaming Arsenal’s poor form on Aubameyang alone is wrong
It’s almost too easy to make Aubameyang the scapegoat in this situation just because of his new contract. A close look at some of the underlying factors will show why it is rather foolhardy to point fingers at the Arsenal captain.
Arsenal have been less creative this season
If Aubameyang has been underperforming, it is not without reason. Arsenal’s creativity has gone down quite a bit this season.
From the above image, we can derive that Arsenal have scored 1.12 goals/game this season compared to 1.47 goals/game last season. They have taken 7 shots/game this season compared to 8.07 shots/game last season. Lastly, they have created 6.62 chances/game this season compared to 8.54 chances/game last season.
The lack of a genuine playmaker is a big reason for this. Arteta’s favoured midfield duo has been Mohamed Elneny and Thomas Partey – players not quite known for their creative prowess. Without adequate service from the midfield, there was bound to be a drop in attacking quality.
Change in Aubameyang’s position
After the appointment of Mikel Arteta as the manager, Aubameyang has had to shift out to the left-wing from his favoured centre-forward position. This has resulted in a decrease in his goal output.
Under Unai Emery, Aubameyang played 52 out of 67 games as centre-forward, contributing to 40 goals. Under Mikel Arteta however, he has played 27 out of 32 games as a left-winger, contributing to 23 goals.
This season, he has contributed to just 4 goals from 8 appearances playing as a left-winger. The heat maps below are proof that his positioning has changed a lot this season. Last season, he was more close to the goal while this season, he has been drifting around the wide middle areas. It is clear that a change is required in terms of how the team is set up.
Aubameyang isn’t the only one struggling
If people are throwing Aubameyang under the bus, they should take a look at his forward partners’ stats too. Alexandre Lacazette, who has been Mikel Arteta’s first-choice striker this season, has not scored a goal or provided an assist since September 28.
Willian, who has been somehow thrown a long leash, has failed to score or assist even once since his two assists against Fulham in the opening week. Even Nicolas Pepe, who has been afforded quite some chances in the league, has failed to score more than once.
This shows that the whole unit of forwards is struggling to produce numbers on a consistent basis and not just Aubameyang alone. A collective failure means that the problem lies with the coach and not the players.
Aubameyang can be cut some slack
Since joining Arsenal, Aubameyang has been the top scorer among all Premier League players, with 72 goals (till Sept 15). Those are 28% of Arsenal’s goals during that period. (h/t Opta). He won the golden boot in his first full league season in 2018/19 and missed out by just one goal last season. He has scored 74 goals for Arsenal in all competitions so far.
For a player who has contributed so much to the team in such a short time, a little bit of leeway can be given to him during his current cold streak. Aubameyang remains one of the best finishers in front of goal and the club should stand behind him during these times.