Not many fans would have argued with you during the summer off-season if you’d said that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was one of the best strikers in the world.
Two goals in each of the FA Cup semi-final and final fixtures saw Arsenal lift the trophy, with the Gabon international looking keen to extend his stay at the Emirates Stadium.
Since then, he has extended his contract with the club and then proceeded to go through the worst spell of his tenure as a Gunner.
Originally, the blame was put at the feet of where he was playing on the pitch. Mikel Arteta had been using him on the left wing, to cut inside on his right foot and be a goal threat away from the centre of the goal. It had worked at the end of last season, but this year he has struggled to have any sort of impact.
Then the blame was put on Arteta, as Arsenal went through a run of just one win in ten league games. They were struggling to score goals at all, with the burden still on Aubameyang despite his form and yet Arteta still decided to prioritise defensive football.
During this spell, Aubameyang returned to a central striking role but without any real service from behind him his drought in front of goal continued.
Then he picked up a calf injury, Alexandre Lacazette went up front and Arteta drafted in young Emile Smith-Rowe to give some creativity to the side and Arsenal started winning games.
They’ve won four in a row now, including an FA Cup tie against Newcastle that went to extra-time, and Aubameyang has scored just the once – in that extra-time period.
Many also attributed the poor form to the fact that he signed the new contract. The deal was reportedly worth around £350,000 per week, making him one of the highest paid players in the Premier League. It was almost as soon as that deal got confirmed that his form went out of the window.
Arsenal fans have accused him of “doing an Ozil”, with the German having done something similar a few years ago. He looked disinterested, unhappy and some even went as far as to say that now that his future was secured long-term on a high wage that he had downed tools.
That seems incredibly harsh for a striker who was scoring at a rate greater than anyone else in the club’s history and was going through the first dip of his time at the club, despite signing three years ago.
While it’s fair to say that he looked a shadow of his usual self, he’s never been the type of player to create something for himself when his team isn’t playing well. More than most top strikers in the world, Aubameyang is very reliant on the service he gets from the rest of his team.
There would have been genuine scope for concern if he just couldn’t finish anymore, but the truth is that he wasn’t getting any chances. He wasn’t missing big chances that were costing Arsenal games, it was more that the team were making him feed off scraps.
That must have been incredibly frustrating for a player like him, who’s overall game and play outside of the penalty area is mediocre at best.
Arteta’s team seems to be a bit more fluid going forward now and with the likes of Smith-Rowe, Bukayo Saka and Lacazette all in good form, Aubameyang will likely start finding the net again sooner rather than later.
He’s still a top poacher, it’s just now a bit more common knowledge that he’s not the best all-round footballer.