The 3 main reasons why Aubameyang has struggled this season

Why has Pierre Emerick Aubameyang struggled this season?

In a season when Arsenal have looked blunt going forward, Aubameyang has still ended up scoring 10 goals in the league, while boasting 19 goal involvements in 38 appearances in all competitions.

That’s 0.5 goals/assists per match for the Gabon international. Although it’s decent return, judging by his previous tallies in France, Germany and then England, it is nowhere close to Aubameyang’s own standards.

In 2019/20, he had an impressive 32 goal involvements in 44 appearances. In the previous four seasons the 31-year-old’s number were at an astonishing 39, 38, 45 and 51.

So why has the man behind the huge smile and shiny cars looked out of his depths this season?

That can be down to three Ps: Personnel, Position and Pandemic.

Personnel:  Imagine a doctor going in the operation theater to operate a person’s heart. If he doesn’t have the proper tools to do it, the surgeon won’t be able to do the operation effectively. We can run parallels to that with Arsenal.

The team started the 2020/21 campaign without any recognized central attacking midfielder. While Mesut Ozil was frozen out “due to footballing reasons,” the club failed to land their most coveted target in Houssem Aouar.

That dearly cost Arsenal in the final-third, as Mikel Arteta looked at his players while scratching his head.

After the first international break, Mikel Arteta switched Arsenal’s default formation from 3-4-3 to a 4-2-3-1. It might have been naïve to alter the formation mid-season, when Arsenal did not have the right personnel for the job.

Alexander Lacazette, Joe Willock and summer recruit Willian were all used as a number 10. But they all failed to make an impact behind the striker. That resulted in Arsenal going five matches without a win after a draw against Leeds United on 22nd November 2020.

That put the Gunners around the relegation zone and Arteta in scrutiny.

It wasn’t until the introduction of Emile Smith Rowe from the academy that the Red and White looked a different proposition.

It is widely known among the fans that Arsenal would be sitting at third position in the league, if the campaign started at the time when Smith Rowe was added to the ranks.

Smith Rowe’s involvement thus helped Aubameyang.

Position: Mikel Arteta has used Aubameyang as a left winger for majority of his time at the Emirates Stadium.

Although the star striker’s preferred position is center-forward, playing on the wing is hardly something new and shiny for the Gabonese.

His career at former club Borussia Dortmund started as a winger, to accommodate a more orthodox number nine in Robert Lewandowski. Aubameyang finds himself in a similar position at Arsenal, with Lacazette being preferred as a focal point due to his hold-up and link-up ability.

But with Aubameyang turning 32 in less than a month, it would not be wise to continue playing him as a winger. Players are not wine. They don’t keep improving after reaching their 30s.

Pandemic: Aubameyang has a jovial personality and enjoys being an extrovert.

He is one of the most liked persons in the dressing room. The star striker likes interaction with friends, family and also fans.

In an interview with Sky Sports, the striker admitted that he struggled a lot at the initial months of the 2020/21 campaign due to no fans.

We have already seen that supporters coming back to the stadium has dramatically improved the performances of the home team.

Brighton and Hove Albion defeated champions Manchester City after going two down. Leicester City won their first-ever FA Cup.

More recently, Arsenal struggled in the second half against Crystal Palace, who were playing in front of their fans. While the team looked sharper in the final day win against Brighton and Hove Albion.

A lack of pre-season and condensed fixture list might have certainly played a part. But it is not feasible for the club to imagine both Lacazette and Aubameyang in the same team, firing and causing havoc.

It might have been a case in the past, but it does not look like a case for the future.

Yash Bisht

Tags Aubameyang


  1. It’s a simple reason.

    Auba relies on his pace and space behind defenders. We deny him that with a slow build up, high possession and sideways passing.

    This is the reason we’ve looked better against top opposition. They have more possession and therefore we have space to counter when they are pushing higher

    I have yet to see MA come up with a consistent solution for defensive teams that sit deep and narrow.

  2. After the first international break, Arteta used Lacazette and Willock as no 10. Willian was assigned as an RW and a false nine at that time, then he very rarely gets his chance in the CAM position afterwards

    About Aubameyang, it’s obvious that he’s not built for Arteta’s high ball possession system. He scored many goals from the left wing when we used the more defensive counter-attacking tactic, but he struggled when having to play in tight spaces

    To make him work in Arteta’s current system, we need to put him back on the left wing and get a better CF that can frequently win the ball from aerial duels. Giroud did this and it made Sanchez able to cut inside many times, like Lukaku-Martinez-Sanchez’s teamwork at Inter Milan

    However, it’s difficult to find a tall CF that’s good in tight spaces and link-ups. Harry Kane is currently the best for that in EPL and we might have to gamble on Balogun next season

  3. Like Vardy, Auba is a player who is totally dependent on his pace to be effective.When their speed is on the wane, they have !little else to offer as they have never developed the ball skills to beat defenders nor to link up with team mates.That was evident yesterday when through balls from Partey and Odegaard were not controlled by Auba and we lost possession.Compare him with Cavanni who was never fast but has everything else in his locker room and the ability to make darting little runs in the penalty area to get on the end of crosses.He is probably the best header of a ball of his generation.I’m afraid we have probably seen the best of Auba and going forward, we are likely to be faced with diminishing returns from our highest paid player.Funny how the Management of our Club keep finding themselves in such an invidious position.Perhaps it boils down to sheer incompetence.

    1. Hi Grandad

      As with my post above, I agree completely. If you are going to play Auba then you have to use a game plan to play to his strengths. If not then don’t even start his as he brings little else to the team and will just be a passenger.

  4. May be the 3 reasons were the 3 year 350k p/w no performance clause contract he was awarded? He won’t give that contract up in a hurry.
    Another Ozil saga brewing.
    All the players know the game. Just run down your contract leave on a free and get a big retirement contract.
    How the club is gonna get rid of Lacazette Torreira Guendouzi Willian Cedric Kolasinac and many others without paying them out mega millions like Ozil Socritis and Mustafi is anyone’s guess.

  5. Also consider the fact that Auba has had injuries, malaria, personal reasons(mother’s illness) to deal with and it is somewhat understandable. The thing with Auba on the wings is something which I believe is a bit exagerrated. I feel when Auba and Laca are in the team, Auba assumes the inside forward role from the left while Laca kind of plays deeper. The problem with this strategy is that our buildup is slow, so we cant utilize the benefits of Auba’s pace. Playing 2 up top like the initial days of Emery might help but only of we put up a 4 4 2 or a 3 back system. Another way of playing which might be effective against teams that sit deep is playing an ultra attacking forward line with Auba at ST, Pepe and Marty in the wings, Saka in a wide back or CM role, and someone who can pick a pass like Ode or prime Ozil( a 2014 version to be precise) would be good, like that game against West Ham with Freddie in charge.
    To conclude, I really would like to think that this is just a oneoff for Auba and he would comeback strong next season with better numbers. Maybe we should re evaluate our captaincy options to reduce pressure on him?

  6. Aubameyang had the perfect storm to have a crappy season this year. He was rarely injured before then had several niggling injuries and illnesses that stops you from developing any kind of form. Add that personal problems with his mother illness and a confidence dip with his goal drought. Being the captain and superstar of the team and not being able to elevate us with his goals like he used to must have also affected.

  7. Yash, you too have not considered, or understated the effect malaria can have on a human being, let alone a professional athlete. Malaria is the biggest killer disease world wide. We do not know how long Aubameyang has it in his bloodstream before it was diagnosed and treated. Malaria is a debilitating disease and can remain in the bloodstream for some time, before recurring. There is no way a malarial Aubameyang could perform at peak level and hopefully he recovers over the off season.

  8. I’m sure he’ll do a better job next season. Hopefully we can get more players with pace

    Love Aubameyang

    1. One pertinent question Stephanie if I may ask. HOW can YOU be so sure? I am not and all available evidence suggests to my mind that his days of trying his hardest and running with desire are firmly behind him. CARE TO COMMENT, PLEASE?

  9. Aubameyang has had the most difficult year possible. Serious heath problems, family health problems and the results of those difficulties. He should have been given a break, because no footballer will get diseases like malaria, or disturbing emotional problems and be 100%. Arteta should have rested him more. Arteta does not have enough years to have any wisdom and that is apparent in his team selections. Aubameyang will return….charged. Arteta will not get wisdom for many a year. Those with foresight see this clearly.

    1. Sean, by the way in my comment on the Moh Haider/AFTV article, I only ask that people acquaint themselves with the issues before commenting. I did not express “hate” towards anyone.

  10. Please, no sentiments..
    Auba is on a decline, as age has caught up with him!!
    He is now slow and even light-weight@times..
    It happens to strikers when dey hit 32,33!! Drogba, Henry, Shearer, etc got to dis point..
    Only ‘diehards’ like C.Ronaldo, L Messi and Luis Suarez still scored goals@33+ in the modern game!!
    If we re serious, we should move away from Auba n Lacazette!!
    They have done well for us, as we have for Dem!!

  11. Our tactics does not suit attacking football. Not only Auba has suffered even pepe and William too. Our build up is very slow and sideways. We cross the ball to Auba even if he is surrounded by opposition defenders. Pepe easily get doubled on by opposition defenders. I am not a coach but hopefully Arteta find a solution.

  12. I believe he is holding back the team, he has become a problem for MA.
    He got a big fat new contract because at the time he was playing in a system that suited him and he was our only match winner. So what do you do ?
    Do you sacrifice the fluidity of the team and play him ? Apart from is goals he doesn’t contribute much to the team and the goals are starting to dry up He’s also holding back the development of martinelli .
    But he’s our captain , our top earner and a big problem for MA.

  13. The truth is always in the details, but not many of our fans do understand why we are playing the way we are doing. At least some of us are tired of conceding silly goals, or watching a team divided into two camps, one trying to defend and the other not tracking home. We are not going to compete for the titles with naive offensive play anymore, but with a few key signings we can play with more freedom. I’m optimistic about the next season. COYG 🔴⚪️

  14. YASH you chose to leave out the real reason for Aubas marked decline this season . His laziness ! He has settled for the money and no longer has the fire needed to self motivate.
    I think all th factors you mention also have some relevance though you overstate them all and UNDERSTATE – AS IN FAILING TO MENTION AT ALL – the real and main reason, LAZINESS!

  15. @johnfox I truly agree to an extent with you that YASH article was just a cover up for Auba’s poor season, some I agree, some excuses . Your comment smells bitterness toward the player. Truthly, most fans clamoured, and waited anxiously last season wanting him to sign the contract extension urging the club to give him whatever he wanted, which we are elated when he did sign that thang. Fast forward to the just concluded season, all I’ve seen are articles, posts & videos of fans calling him out and saying he’s lazy and stuffs (same thing said of Mesuts body language). But we needed to cut the lad some slack & look at other factors which might be the major causes of his rapid and sudden decline and that’s where coaching staffs comes in.. I’m not saying it is their fault but player doesn’t go from excellent to mediocre in few months and I see how dejected and disappointing he is whenever he plays badly. I’m not defending Auba but he needs our love & support to be prolific again & not going Ozil 2.0 on him

    1. Ximplicity As you too ar , I presume, a fan of our club, I suggest to you that it is fine and natural to feel bitterness towards a highly(I would suggest OBSCENELY highly) paid professional who has had the love and support of fans but who is letting us all down bigtime by his idleness!

      I do not know what emotion you would expect a real fan to feel when being cheated out of all that money and support we give to our non trying”captain”! Pity perhaps ?

      My own moral values in life are not easily well disposed towards any person who takes and takes and takes but who chooses not to give back or who does the bare minimum and even that, reluctantly.

      I would have thought that reaction from a fan like me was understandable, normal and shared. I suggest it probably is shared by a great many fans too, even if you are not among them. REALITY!!

  16. @jonfox I do get you… I’m not going into arguement(s) with you. We all felt depressed, angry and sad (still feeling it) because of how Arsenal are going down. My question is “would you disown your son who mostly gets A and suddenly gets D”?. Yes, emotion sets in, because of the time, money and investments and hope you put on him and no matter how angry you are and scold him, you would still want to find out what really happened and let him know he could do better (great respect to your family, it’s just an example). I’m not defending Auba, he had a really bad season but had been prolific before that. If he doesn’t do well, he could be sold by january window.
    I respect your emotions, but you calling me a plastic fan because I don’t lash out like you do is funny, you don’t even know me

Comments are closed

Top Blog Sponsors