Arsenal’s form has received a boost of sorts of late, largely since Mikel Arteta switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation at Christmas.
The new shape has allowed the Gunners to offer more in attack while restricting their opponents to less on the defensive side of the game, but one player is still suffering.
Pierre Emerick Aubameyang is the man in question; he did score a hat-trick against Leeds United recently but ultimately, he’s had a desperately quiet campaign by his own high standards.
The strange nature of his season can be captured using the numbers, with several stats able to highlight just how small his influence has been at the Emirates.
First of all, it is difficult to look beyond the basic goals scored figures. Aubameyang has scored only six times in the Premier League this season – excluding penalties – which places him alongside Manchester City’s Phil Foden and Jack Harrison of Leeds United.
For context, among strikers, Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Tottenham forward Son Heung-min have both scored 13 times, for perspective, while Patrick Bamford of Leeds and Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah have bagged 12 and 11 goals each.
The 31 year-old’s lack of scoring stems from his troubling shot output, which is arguably even stranger. He’s attempted to score 43 times this season, which ranks him in 25th place overall behind Fulham’s Ademola Lookman and Neal Maupay of Brighton, to name two.
Once showing his shooting on a per 90 basis, the story worsens.
Aubameyang averages 2.2 efforts on goal per 90 which is the 40th “best” in England’s top-flight based on the players who have played at least 800 minutes.
For context, Sébastien Haller averaged 2.4 shots per 90 for West Ham before signing for Ajax in January, and Sheffield United’s David McGoldrick places 38th with 2.3 shots per 90 for Sheffield United.
Expected Goals – which offers an insight into the probability of a player scoring fewer or more goals based largely the quantity and quality of his shot locations – paints Aubameyang similarly, albeit in a slightly better light.
He places 21st in the league for non-penalty Expected Goals per 90 behind Manchester City midfielder Ilkay Gundogan, Aston Villa striker Ollie Watkins and Michail Antonio of West Ham, to name but a few.
His position of 21st for non-penalty Expected Goals is notable better than his rank of 38th for shots, with the reason for that being his ability to get shots close to goal. He doesn’t shoot very often but when he does, the efforts are from decent locations.
His scoring threat still isn’t particularly strong, though, and he isn’t making up for that by offering creation for his teammates.
A key pass is one that leads directly to a shot, with Aubameyang placing 87th in the division at present having produced 16 over the course of the season.
Again, for perspective, Manchester City defensive midfielder Rodri and Leeds utility man Stuart Dallas have 17 key passes to their names, with Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi on 22 having played less than half the number of minutes than the Gunners forward.
Ultimately, considering Aubameyang is supposed to offer threat and tangible output at the business end of the field, the numbers that can be applied to capture that suggest he’s operated as a very ineffective attacker this season.
How much of his lack of impact has been a product of his environment under Arteta remains to be seen, but as the Spaniard continues to improve Arsenal, getting his star attacker firing has to be near the top of his agenda.