Arsenal’s captain and talisman almost singlehandedly carried the side last year but he needs more support around him in 2020/21
Years from now when Arsenal’s 2019/20 season is remembered, one name will undoubtedly stand out: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
In a season that saw the Gunners seemingly going down a path that threatened to see them lose every shred of their identity as a club, the Gabon star thrived. At the Emirates Stadium was a ‘captain’ in Unai Emery who was losing command of his ship and on-pitch leader Granit Xhaka whose tetchy relationship with Gooners reached a nadir on that unpleasant night Crystal Palace in October.
And what about the situation with the club’s most talented player, Mesut Ozil, who struggled to get a look in, as well as the struggles of Auba’s strike partner Alexander Lacazette to regain form and fitness after an early-season injury?
The initial struggles of record-signing Nicolas Pepe to adapt to a new league were apparent while David Luiz’s penchant for the most bizarre gaffes was a source of frustration for Arsenal supporters.
Beyond Bernd Leno’s shot-stopping, Gabriel Martinelli’s unforeseen emergence and Bukayo Saka’s promise (which didn’t truly spring forth until the new year), the positives at London Colney could be counted on one hand.
🚨 𝐏𝐨𝐝𝐜𝐚𝐬𝐭 𝐀𝐥𝐞𝐫𝐭 🎧🎙️
Which African stars could compete for the 2020-21 Premier League’s Golden Boot? 🔥
— Goal Africa (@GoalAfrica) September 11, 2020
Through it all, Aubameyang’s standard never dropped. While nearly everyone around him hit rough patches, he remained consistent. He kept scoring, kept being decisive as best he could. Thus, it was no surprise the former Borussia Dortmund striker replaced Xhaka as skipper. What he lacked (and probably still lacks) in authority and tenacity, he makes up for in leading by example on the pitch.
New head coach, now manager, Mikel Arteta leaned on the prolific forward early doors after replacing the rudderless Emery and he repaid that faith with hugely important goals to win the club’s 14th FA Cup.
Months earlier, in the January window, the forward affirmed his faith to the side by committing to the end of the season at least, a decision that calmed heightened nerves and allow the new boss to focus on putting his ideas across to the players.
So, what’s in store for Arsenal’s top marksman in 2020/21?
The story of last season
Simply stating that the striker was important in winning the club a record 14th FA Cup title is oversimplifying his brilliance last season and especially in the second part of the campaign.
Without question, the side depended heavily on his prowess in front of goal and it saw them overcome cup favourites Manchester City and Frank Lampard’s Chelsea en route to success in August. Arsenal scored two each in those games, all scored by Auba.
It takes a team to win trophies but it takes big players with big personalities to thrive under pressure and come up trumps when it counts. Aubameyang delivered when it mattered, winning his first trophy for the club since joining in winter 2017. The unfair criticism that he couldn’t deliver in big games was cast aside, too, deservedly.
In the Premier League, he netted 22 times, equalling 2018/19’s tally, and narrowly missed out on back-to-back Golden Boots to Jamie Vardy who hit 23 goals.
Admittedly, their Europa League campaign was underwhelming, and in some way, Auba’s glaring miss at the death in the Round of 16 vs Olympiacos was awful.
Still, it shouldn’t diminish how their captain largely gave hope to the players around him and an entire club’s fanbase when many teammates were either faltering or hit brick walls.
Any transfer rumours?
The situation over the striker’s contract has rumbled on in the short off-season but nothing concrete has emerged.
Recent reports have indicated that the striker is on the verge of signing a new three-year deal with the club. This will be a huge boost for Arsenal going into the season if he indeed extends.
One hope for 2020/21
In simple terms, the wish has to be for Auba finally getting the much-needed support from those around him as the club try to return where they belong in the Champions League.
Arsenal have failed to play in the continent’s most sought-after club competition since 2016/17, an unacceptable fact for a club with the history and size of the North London side.
One fear for 2020/21
The recent evidence makes this unlikely, but what if Arsenal’s captain fails to fire in the new season?
It’s too early to call, but their showing in the Community Shield and pre-season friendly defeat by Aston Villa suggests the side will still depend on his output in front of goal this year. An injury to Arteta’s captain could prove disastrous!
Goal’s prediction for the new season
“Aubameyang remains Arsenal’s key man this season, as he has done for every season since he arrived,” said Goal‘s Arsenal correspondent Charlie Watts. “He showed in the FA Cup semi-final and final just how important he is to Arteta’s team and that is why the Spaniard has been so desperate to get his new contract over the line.
“He scored 31 goals in his first full season at Arsenal and another 29 last time around, if he has another season scoring with such regularity, then the Gunners should get very close to securing a spot in the top four and returning to the Champions League.
“He may be 31 now, but there are no signs that he is losing any of his electric pace and his eye for goal is as sharp as ever,” Watts continued. “I think he will have another excellent campaign and will be up there once again competing for the Golden Boot.”
Aubameyang has shown in the last two seasons at Arsenal that the talent pool around him wouldn’t necessarily affect his output in front of goal. Thus, it won’t be surprising to see him in contention for the Premier League Golden Boot yet again…so long as he stays fit.
Doubts remain over the Gunners’ all-round quality to end in the UCL spots with many intimating that further additions are required in the squad to secure their best Prem finish since 2016.
Maybe, though, just maybe, Arsenal are due a top four finish again…and Aubameyang’s goals will take them there!
Published at Fri, 11 Sep 2020 23:07:17 +0000