Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is struggling at Arsenal.
After seeing Alexandre Lacazette play superbly against Chelsea in the recent 3-1 win, an interesting debate emerged about whether the Arsenal captain should have returned against Brighton.
But a few months ago, it would have been sacrilege to make a claim for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang being anyone other than the first name on the team sheet.
A striker who’d carried his team with an array of goals, he topped it all off with a match-winning brace in the FA Cup final. Anxiously waiting for him to sign a new deal, when the official confirmation finally arrived it was heralded as the best piece of business the club would make that summer. Perhaps even for a number of summers.
Three goals in 14 Premier League outings since and the criticism has arrived, plenty of it justified. As a unit, Arsenal have been hopeless in the final third but no part of the structure is without fault.
Against Brighton, Aubameyang was guilty. Seeing fellow teammates display more positive body language, the grumblings felt weren’t without merit. It can’t be denied that more is needed from him.
Equally, it’s unavoidable that the midfield don’t tend to his needs.
On the south coast, there were at least three occasions in the firs half where his runs in behind weren’t picked out. These weren’t just dummy runs to create space. With the correct service, they’re goalscoring opportunities, the like we’ve seen the 31-year-old bury throughout his goal-laden career.
Granit Xhaka and Mohamed Elneny were guilty of being too negative on these occasions. Xhaka, however, possesses the range of pass to pick out those runs, yet wasn’t willing to, on one particular occasion, given the ball was on his weaker foot.
Aubameyang feeds on attacking space. It’s his bread and butter. Until Arsenal can find progression in that central area, he will continue to starve.
Thomas Partey can’t come back soon enough.
Capable with either feet, his intuition is on moving the ball vertically with pace. No other central midfielder at Arsenal either sees those runs, or has the technical acumen to pull them off. That, and they aren’t brave enough.
Making those movements to no avail is naturally cause for frustration, but that doesn’t justify Aubameyang dropping his head. As the captain he needs to lead, even when he himself is the most sacrificed of all.