Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has never had much trouble scoring goals. Aged 23 he was already the top scorer in Ligue 1 for St. Etienne, before following that up as the second-top scorer the season after, which easily earned him a move to Borussia Dortmund. Previously suspected to merely be a speed merchant, it was in Dortmund that he would establish himself as one of the finest strikers in the game. You don’t score 141 goals in 213 appearances by simply being able to run fast.
Arsenal’s era of frugality – necessarily imposed by the funding of a new stadium – had already come to a close by the winter transfer window in 2017/18. The acquisitions of Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette, for £42.5 million and £46.5 million respectively, were ample evidence of that. There was still a collective raising of eyebrows, though, when Aubameyang arrived in January 2018 for a club record £56 million, particularly considering he was already 28; hardly ‘past it’ for a forward, but noteworthy for one who relied so heavily on pace. Our own correspondent, Andrew Thompson, also questioned whether the idea of Aubameyang coming as a savior was realistic, and specifically how well he might fit into Arsène Wenger’s possession-obsessed system.
Aubameyang’s Premier League Record
Let’s not beat around the bush – the Aubameyang transfer has been an unqualified success for Arsenal so far. He scored 10 goals in 13 Premier League games after arriving in January 2018, and – while his goals-per-game ratio dropped in 2018-19 – Aubameyang still tied Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané for the Golden Boot award with 22 goals.
Digging a little deeper than sheer goals, the statistics also clearly show that Auba is one of the league’s most lethal predators. Amongst the 25 players who scored at least 10 league goals in 2018-19, the Gabonese is second only to Sergio Aguero in minutes-per-goal, on 124. For reference, Harry Kane trailed on 143, Salah 148, and Jamie Vardy 152. Basically, Aguero and Aubameyang were in a tier of their own.
Within that mini-tier, Aubameyang was actually far more efficient than Aguero. He scored one more goal on a hefty 15 fewer shots thanks to his incredible shooting accuracy, which was much higher most of the season. The fact that he only undershot his xG by 1.10 also indicates that he didn’t waste many chances.
That’s not to say, however, that Aubameyang has exactly transformed his game. He largely has the same strengths and weaknesses as he did at Dortmund. In the aforementioned article, Andrew Thompson questioned whether he was an ‘all-rounder’. An uninspiring 9 assists in 49 appearances, combined with a certain lack of variety in his approach (only 5 of his 32 games have been scored with his left foot, and – stunningly – precisely zero have been headers), suggests not.
Can Aubameyang win the 2019/20 Golden Boot?
While Auba’s share in the 18/19 Golden Boot shouldn’t be dismissed… it wasn’t exactly the most explosive race we’ve seen in the Premier League. In fact, the last time 22 goals would have won the award was the 2010/11 season, in which Carlos Tevez and Dimitar Berbatov tied with 20 goals apiece. Just one season prior, in 17/18, Aubameyang would have finished third behind Salah and Kane, who smashed 32 and 30 respectively. The Premier League might not be quite as potent as the hype suggests – it has sat roughly even with Serie A in goals-per-game over the past 10 years or so, and some distance behind La Liga – but it normally takes more to bag the Golden Boot.
In short, Aubameyang will need to pump those numbers up if he’s to be in with a shout of winning next season. As to whether he can do this, his historical numbers are inconclusive one way or the other. He’s been a consistent scorer for many years now, but only the best of his top three scoring seasons – 31, 25 and 23 goals – would realistically be enough to guarantee the Golden Boot.
The other major question mark hovers over his Arsenal teammates, and their ability to create chances. While Emery did eventually find a successful way to fit both Aubameyang and the team-oriented Lacazette into the same attack, there was precious little other help outside of the Frenchman’s eight assists. Aaron Ramsey tied for the second-most assists, with six, but he leaves the club this summer for Juventus. Alex Iwobi, who also registered six assists, certainly improved under Emery but still often seems an unfinished product. The team’s supposed chief playmakers – Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mesut Özil – combined for a mere six assists between them, across 49 total appearances.
To win the Golden Boot right now, you need to get past Kane, Aguero and Salah. Including 2018/19’s tie, those three have taken the last five Golden Boots between them. Each plays within a defined and deadly attacking system orchestrated by some of the league’s best creators – the likes of Eriksen, De Bruyne and Firmino. Right now Arsenal simply don’t have that, which is why many of Aubameyang’s goals are either self-created, or opportunistically poached when the ball is loose. A big-time creative addition to the squad this summer could be all Aubameyang needs to start pushing for 30 goals in 2019/20.
The Smart Money
The Golden Boot is easily one of the most fun long-term wagers to stick down heading into the season. While nothing’s certain in gambling, one ‘sure thing’ is that Aubameyang will be amongst the favourites for the 2019/20 award.
He entered the 2018/19 season as the consensus third-favourite, behind Harry Kane and Mo Salah, and – at pre-season odds generally hovering around 7/1 to 9/1 – provided outstanding value for anyone who took him. If he’s getting similar odds from the scene’s best betting sites heading into 2019/20, then – based on his track record, and particularly if Arsenal do make that statement attacking addition – Auba could be a very tantalising pick indeed.