After another underwhelming display against Liverpool, questions have emerged over exactly what is wrong with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The Gabon striker has not scored since being dropped for the North London Derby victory over Tottenham Hotspur last month due to disciplinary issues and has been substituted in both of Arsenal’s last two Premier League matches.
When they announced the decision to extend his contract in mid-September it is likely that the Gunners would have been hoping for more from their captain, who has scored just nine goals in 25 Premier League appearances.
His poor returns since that renewal have led many to concerns that the club may be going down a similar path that they did with Mesut Ozil three seasons prior.
That school of thought was summed up Jamie Carragher, who questioned the Gabon forward’s commitment this season in comparison to campaigns gone by.
“I think Aubameyang‘s performances this season have been lazy, at times,” he told Sky Sports.
“I don’t care how many goals he gets – he’s won Golden Boots in the past – but he’s definitely a player who doesn’t bring anything to this team if he doesn’t score a goal, and that’s a big problem.
“I watched him last week at West Ham, and I’ve watched him four or five times this season, and I’m thinking I need more. I need more from you, and that’s exactly what we saw on Saturday against Liverpool.
“He was late for the north London derby and the manager took a big decision, and it paid off. I’m expecting a reaction from Aubameyang. He then plays midweek, misses a few chances and he’s not at his best in the Europa League game.
“I watched him at West Ham and I’d go as far as to say it is one of the worst performances I’ve seen this season. I was commentating on the game and when he went off the pitch in the 77th minute, Arsenal scored and he celebrated with (Alexandre) Lacazette, and I said that’s the most energetic I’ve seen him this season.
“He then gets brought off again against Liverpool. This is your star man getting taken off in the last two games on the back of me wanting to see a reaction.
“I think there will be a big worry at Arsenal and for Mikel Arteta that they may have another Mesut Ozil situation where they give someone a big contract at £300,000 or £350,000-a-week. Good luck to him, but you’ve got to justify that.
“Next season and in these coming months that will be going through the manager’s mind. Have we got another situation like that because what he is producing right now is nowhere near good enough considering how good a player he is and also what Arsenal have invested in him.”
The reasons why Carragher chose to make the Ozil comparison are clear.
After signing his now infamous £350,000 per week contract extension, the German’s assist output went from one every 2.9 appearances to one every 5.4. When you consider that Ozil was playing with far more clinical strikers towards the end of his Arsenal career then that becomes even more shocking.
While the former Real Madrid man was expected to provide assists after his contract extension, what Aubameyang is undoubtedly in the side for is to score goals.
There has been a drop off in his output this season (0.40 goals per 90) in comparison to his previous two and half campaigns with the Gunners (0.74 goals per 90).
But while that may be the case, it’s interesting to notice that when it comes to his expected goals in 2020/21 the Gabonese forward is actually performing above what he should be with a tally of nine strikes vs an xG of 8.35.
While the -0.65 disparity is nothing compared to the startling -5.65 we saw last season, the reality is that when Aubameyang is getting chances he is generally putting them away.
Without creative players in the Arsenal side in the first part of the season, the 31-year-old struggled to find the back of the net, going over three months without a goal from open play in the Premier League.
With that trio starting in behind him, Aubameyang’s goal-scoring record stands at five goals in four matches.
Against Liverpool, much of his time was spent back defending with his average position being inside his own half. No matter what kind of form you’re in that makes it very difficult to contribute as much going forward as in times gone by.
It’s not as though Aubameyang is the perfect player.
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There are plenty of things he could work on. His record of 0.53 dribbles completed per 90 over the past year for example puts him in just the third percentile when it comes to similar players in his position, as per fbRef.
On top of that, the amount of pressures per 90 in Premier League matches this season has dropped from 16.5 last season to 12.4 this time around and for that, there can be no excuses.
But the reality is that Aubameyang is still comfortably the best finisher at the club, and he has already proven that when chances are created for him he is more than capable of justifying the hefty investment Arsenal made in him by putting those opportunities away.