Arsenal need more than just the deadline-day addition of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. But while he adds at a position of relative strength, he will help other areas too. Here’s how.
The signing of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was a bit of a surprise. Not only is he an a-typical Arsenal signing, but he arrives at a club that only six months broke their club transfer record on a very similar player in Alexandre Lacazette.
The strangeness of the move is only compounded when the real shortcomings of this team are considered. Arsenal have scored the fifth-most goals in the Premier League this season, more than Chelsea and just three less than Spurs and Manchester United. But they have conceded the same amount of goals, 34, as Leicester City, Brighton, and bottom-of-the-table West Brom. It is not difficult to see where their problems lie.
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That is something that Jamie Carragher is keen to point, questioning the recruitment process of Arsene Wenger and the club. Speaking on The Debate on Sky Sports, Carragher questioned whether Arsenal needed Aubameyang, suggesting that their real problems could actually get worse with his arrival:
“My big problem with the transfers is the same old problems, we saw that midweek at Swansea. You just think, you are continually buying attacking players but seeing the old problems. The problems are not going away, and they’re not going away because of what’s happened January. They may actually get worse because there are more attacking players on the pitch.”
I don’t, however, hear Carragher questioning the defensive fragility of Manchester City because of their plethora of attacking players that they have on the pitch at the same time. Kevin de Bruyne, David Silva, Leroy Sane, Raheem Sterling and Sergio Aguero. That is a lot of attack-minded players in one team. And the reason I don’t hear it is that City don’t need to be a stifling defence because they can press from the front and suffocate the game with their energetic, incessant attack.
That is what Aubameyang can provide the Gunners. He comes from Jurgen Klopp’s uber-press at Borussia Dortmund — as does fellow new addition Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Naturally, he is a quick player who utilises his pace wonderfully. But he also has the willingness, the mentality and the desire to hound and harass opposing defenders.
This makes life much easier for his teammates behind him. The opposition does not have time and space on the ball to play an accurate pass forwards. They are harried into mistakes. Their touches hurriedly become loose and wayward. They concede possession in deep areas and are immediately put under defensive pressure once again.
So while Arsenal do still need to address the personnel shortcomings that they have in defensive and midfield areas, it would be lazy analysis to suggest that Aubameyang does not help those areas of the team, even if it is a little less obvious. Footballer, after all, is a team sport, and Aubameyang improves more than just the number of goals scored.