Aubameyang was at the top of his game at the time after scoring 31 goals in his first full season at Arsenal and hitting two in two games at the start of his second. But there are question marks over the forward 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 after playing a pivotal role in Arsenal’s FA Cup victory six weeks earlier, but by the turn of the year he had only scored three times in 14 Premier League matches.
A two-goal performance against Newcastle in January was seen as a possible turning point, but his mother fell ill soon after, causing him to miss a series of matches, and although there was a hat-trick against Leeds in his back, he’s still struggling. to find his rhythm.
Aubameyang hasn’t helped himself in this search for rhythm recently, of course. His delay prompted Mikel Arteta to drop him for the North London derby victory over Tottenham and since then there have been poor performances against Olympiacos and West Ham.
Indeed, in the frenzied 3-3 draw at London Stadium ahead of the international break, there was even the rare sight of the striker replaced as Arsenal continued to equalize.
The combination of his new contract and his status as club captain means Aubameyang’s expectations are higher than ever among fans – 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 seen in the context of Arsenal as a whole.
Arteta has spoken about Arsenal missing Aubameyang’s goals in the first half of the season, but he wasn’t helped by the lack of creativity behind him. The Gunners sometimes struggled to get the ball into the final third, let alone in the opponent’s area.
Aubameyang may have only scored three Premier League goals in that span, but according to Opta he has actually performed in line with his expected goals; a clear indication that the biggest problem was the lack of service rather than the waste of finishing.
Aubameyang just didn’t have enough chances. His confidence suffered but he was not the only striker struggling. Until Christmas, Arsenal placed 15th in the Premier League for chances created. Aubameyang was actually their co-top scorer with Alexandre Lacazette.
It wasn’t until after Christmas that Arsenal finally clicked and started creating more opportunities. The introduction of Emile Smith Rowe to the squad was a major factor in the improvement and the arrival of Martin Odegaard from Real Madrid provided another boost.
With two natural playmakers added since Christmas, Arsenal have gone from 15th to fifth to score chances and it is no coincidence that Aubameyang’s production has improved as well.
The attacker has more hits in the opponent’s box and has more shots. As a result, he’s gone from an average of 0.2 goals per 90 minutes before Christmas to 0.7 per 90 minutes since.
A comeback of six of his last eight Premier League appearances looks good at first glance, but those goals have come in groups – two against Newcastle and three against Leeds – and there have been some inconsistencies in playing time and performance .
His moderate performance from the right against West Ham, in which he failed to register a single shot on goal or create chances, reopened the debate over his best position.
But while some believe he is better suited to the central punching spot, it’s worth remembering that much of his best work has come from wide positions at Arsenal.
In fact, Aubameyang has started more games there than in the middle since joining the club in 2018 and that hasn’t stopped him from scoring 63 Premier League goals in 109 appearances – a total beaten only by Mohamed Salah in the same amount of time. .
The problem for Aubameyang is that he’s struggling to set the pace and regain his confidence at a time when Arteta has a wide range of attacking options.
Odegaard has become a key figure of No.10 and this increases the competition for places with high positions.
Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka have been exceptional in recent months, while Nicolas Pepe and even the much-maligned Willian have shown signs of improvement recently.
These players don’t carry the same threat of penalty as Aubameyang, of course, but they have other attributes – creativity and youthful energy in the cases of Smith Rowe and Saka, individual ability in the case of Pepe – than giving them a advantage over the Arsenal captain in various ways.
Aubameyang doesn’t offer as much in general play as the others, meaning his contribution tends to be smaller when not scoring, while the fit Lacazette gives the side a different dimension up front. The Frenchman has scored in each of his last three starts and his linking play in deeper areas has also been invaluable.
Aubameyang is able to tie the game together, of course, but he’s better suited to play on the shoulder of the last defender, running behind rather than backing down to create space for the others. Recent evidence suggests that is not what Arteta expects from his central striker at the moment.
It will be interesting to see how Arsenal’s attack is set up against Liverpool on Saturday. Circumstances dictate that Aubameyang may not be the certain starter he once was. But Arteta would be wise to stay by his side. The best way to find consistency is to play consistently. And Arsenal need him at his best.
Pitch to Post Preview: Jamie Redknapp on Arsenal vs Liverpool; And how does Man City replace Aguero? And crunch time for Newcastle
In this week Pitch to Post Preview Podcast Expert de Sky Sports Jamie Redknapp joint Peter Smith to anticipate the big clash of Saturday between Arsenal and Liverpool. Could Jurgen Klopp’s side turn a frustrating season into a glorious one with a late top four push and a Champions League charge? Redknapp assesses their chances – and explains where they will need to strengthen in this summer’s transfer window.
We also hear Sky Sports News’ Man City journalist Ben Ransom on life after Sergio Aguero at the Etihad Stadium and which Pep Guardiola and his recruiting team will aim to replace the iconic Argentina ace.
More Sky Sports feature writer Adam Hit examine Newcastle confront Tottenham – two teams with still a lot to play in this run-in, and two managers who need a good finish of the campaign.
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