Arsenal Vs Manchester City: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang must do what he does best

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 03: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Everton at Emirates Stadium on February 3, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 03: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal during the Premier League match between Arsenal and Everton at Emirates Stadium on February 3, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images) /
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If Arsenal are to overcome Manchester City and win the Carabao Cup on Sunday afternoon, then one thing must happen: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang must do what he does best.

Arsenal have the chance to win a trophy. That, given their recent form, is not something that I would have been expecting to write at this point in the season. But, nevertheless, they are in the final of the Carabao Cup, and someone has to win it, right?

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The problem is a simple one: Manchester City, Sunday’s opponents, are perhaps the best team of the Premier League era. They have lost just two games all season in all competitions. One of those was to a blistering Liverpool who carved open their visitors on that day with pace and dynamism in the attacking third. The other was Wigan Athletic. Who’d have thought it, eh?

If Arsenal are to overcome Pep Guardiola’s City, a task that few people are considering them capable of completing, nevermind making them realistic contenders, then one crucial thing must happen: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang must do what he does best. Actually, I misspoke a little. It isn’t one thing. In fact, it’s three things, and Aubameyang, at different periods in the match, must be able to do all of them.

The first is obvious: Score. Like Will Grigg for Wigan with the Latics only shot on target of the game, a fact that Guardiola was keen to make painfully clear in his post-match interviews, when Aubameyang gets his opportunity, he must not fail to take it. They may not be in plentiful supply. Arsenal will find chances difficult to carve. So when they come, a clinical and ruthless attitude is vital.

The other two aspects are a little more nuanced. Rather than simply score — after all, football is about scoring more goals than the opposition, these have a greater tactical influence on proceedings.

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One is offensive: Aubameyang, through his searing speed, must provide a threat on the counter-attack. If City are allowed to grow comfortable with extended periods of possession, unfazed by the potential Arsenal break if they lose the ball, then the overawing, relentless pressure that they are able to exert will pay dividends. Wave after wave of attacks is difficult to refute for 90 minutes. But if Aubameyang can hold up the ball, relieving pressure, run the channels well, and offer a serious and dangerous threat to what has been a vulnerable City defence, the doubt that it will cause will ripple as confidence through in his teammates.

The other is defensive: When the time comes, and they will be sparse and sometimes difficult to recognise, Aubameyang must press the City defenders in possession. Arsenal have the ability to steal chances from their opponents by winning the ball high up the pitch and exposing a subsequently open and unstructured defence. But they must choose their moments. Spearheaded by Aubameyang, it is important that they not only press effectively, but do so intelligently and efficiently, with an awareness of the pattern of the game at that time.

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If Aubameyang can do those things, Arsenal have a chance in this game. But if he is isolated, lost, and overpowered like in the North London derby, City could very easily run riot. It’s time for the club-record signing to prove his worth. This is why he is here.