Goal-machine Aubameyang's everything Chelsea need in a striker
The Gunners forward has been one of the league’s best players since his move from Dortmund and proves the January window can work favourably
Chelsea’s decision to bring in Gonzalo Higuain to bolster their attack feels like a necessary move for the lowest scorers of the Premier League’s so-called ‘big six’.
Alvaro Morata’s tried and failed fairly miserably to resemble anything like the guarantee of goals the Blues thought they were buying from Real Madrid, Olivier Giroud is either injured or offside and Eden Hazard, as brilliant as he is, is far better out on the left flank.
But if Higuain, who is close to securing a loan move to Stamford Bridge, needs any help in understanding what he needs to do to hit the ground running in English football, he’d do far worse than speaking to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Indeed, one year ago it was Arsenal who were ushering in an experienced striker from the continent in a deal that, rather ironically, allowed Chelsea to bring in Giroud.
Amid all the upheaval that’s taking place at the Emirates, with a new manager coming in, Aaron Ramsey heading out and Mesut Ozil not really knowing what’s going on, the Gabonese forward has been the most consistent and effective player at the club over the past 12 months.
The January transfer window is not known as a reliable time to make impactful signings. Instead, it often provides a mix of calculated gambles, dice rolling and hopeful loan moves. But guided by former Dortmund recruitment chief Sven Mislintat – who’s another that’s set to leave the Gunners – the north Londoners sanctioned a club-record transfer fee for Aubameyang.
Money well spent?
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Well, since Aubameyang moved to Arsenal, only Mohamed Salah has scored more Premier League goals. Both have an Expected Goals rate of 21.4 but the Liverpool man has had an extra 14 shots on target. The 29-year-old gets fewer chances to score than Salah but when he does, they tend to be of reasonable quality.
It’s almost 20 years since Arsene Wenger proclaimed Francis Jeffers to be the ‘fox in the box’ Arsenal needed – he scored four times in the Premier League. It’s been a long-time since Arsenal had a prolific goal-getter of Thierry Henry proportions that could score at a better rate than a goal in every other game – in Aubameyang, they appear to have exactly that.
Decisive and deadly, the Gabon forward averages only six penalty-area touches per goal, considerably lower than the likes of Salah, Hazard and Sergio Aguero. The average number of touches inside the box of players to score 10 or more Premier League goals since Aubameyang’s debut is 11.3 – almost double that of the Arsenal man.
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Whether he’s involved in other aspects of the game enough, and despite a propensity to garnish his goalscoring with a tendency to waste some high-quality opportunities (Aubameyang’s total of 15 Opta-defined ‘Big Chances’ missed in 2018-19 is at least two more than any other player in the division), it’s hard to argue with the the Arsenal forward’s impressive consistency.
Aubameyang will, if he scores at least once in the next two games, become the fifth fastest player to reach the 25-goal mark in the Premier League. A tally of 24 in 35 appearances means that a goal against Chelsea or Cardiff will see him slip between Fernando Torres and Aguero.
The fastest to 25 goals in the Premier League in Arsenal’s history? Henry. In 42 matches. Aubameyang’s on course to comfortably beat that, and with games to spare.
Rewind to January 2019 and, on paper, spending more than £50 million on a player who turns 30 in 2019 was not a very Arsenal thing to do. But in the context of a club who seemingly want to offload star players who’d prefer to stay and release players they’d prefer to keep, the Aubameyang signing has been a stabilising element in what has been a turbulent year for the Gunners.
And, who knows, with Harry Kane sidelined until March, Aubameyang may even crown his first full season in England with the Golden Boot. Over to you, Gonzalo. No pressure.