Is it time for a change in approach at Arsenal?
PLAY PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG DOWN THE MIDDLE! It’s the plea of every Arsenal fan around the world at the moment. Supporters who are fed up of the team’s dire record in front of goal this season.
With just nine goals netted after eight league games (our worst return in over 20 years), it makes sense to believe that playing our top goal-scorer in his natural position might address the issue. However, the subsequent vacancy on the left wing could have an even bigger impact on our attacking fortunes.
Here’s the thing: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is not a winger. Yes, he likes to play on the shoulder, and yes, he has scored 44 goals over the last two league campaigns from the left flank, but he is not a winger. The Gabonese international lacks the ability to take players on, or even to thread a pass through a stubborn defence. Furthermore, his goalscoring instincts make him far more suited to a central role.
While this role change will benefit the captain, it may have even more far-reaching implications for the team in a general attacking sense. By starting a natural winger on the left, such as Bukayo Saka, opposition defences would have something extra to think about, given the youngster’s impressive ball-carrying ability and incredible knack for pulling the strings in advanced areas.
Additionally, the enhanced threat on the left may enable Nicolas Pepe to find pockets of space on the opposite side, or to get himself into dangerous positions as an inside-right forward. The selection of two natural wingers on either side would bring increased dynamism and ingenuity to our attack, while the new-found balance would allow us to vary our attacking patterns instead of the current reliance on the left.
The angst and frustration reverberating around the club has not only been felt by the fans, but also by Pepe. Speaking to French channel Canal Plus this week, our record signing expressed his disappointment about his lack of game time. It’s normal for players to express disappointment when they’re on the bench, especially during an international break, with Pepe clearly unhappy with his current role.
Something has got to give at Arsenal, and pretty soon too. With the Willian/Alexandre Lacazette/Aubameyang triumvirate currently flattering to deceive, what’s the harm in trying something a little more adventurous?