Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s first full season at Arsenal couldn’t have gone much better on a personal level. Sure, Europa League glory would have been the crowning achievement for the 31-goal striker, but a Golden Boot and a tight partnership with Alexandre Lacazette has made him one of The Gunners’ hottest properties.
Alas, good things never last forever. The Gabon hitman turns 30 this weekend, and should his prime years be coming to an end, the club will have to plan accordingly to maintain the glut of goals he provides on a near-weekly basis.
Luckily, we have reinforcements already in place. They say ‘less is more’, and that could just be the masterplan that shapes the future of Arsenal’s attack.
A lot has been made of Aubameyang’s on-pitch relationship with Lacazette, but that’s not to say that either would struggle without the other.
If certain rumours are to come to fruition, Aubameyang could be off in a sensational move to China – which would presumably leave the club in a pickle – but just a tweak to the gameplan and building the team around Lacazette can keep the goals coming – and secure the desired results in such a scenario.
We saw glimpses of Lacazette leading the line perfectly well prior to his strike partner’s arrival, and his place in the top two for the team’s goals and assists last season demonstrates his undeniable worth to the squad – whoever’s on the teamsheet.
Lacazette’s early Arsenal career saw him notch nine times in the league before Aubameyang turned up – at which point opportunities dried up and injury halted his progress.
This season has seen him double his assist tally in the Premier League and performing in a consistent centre-forward role has his goal count on the up, too.
Aubameyang is an out-and-out goalscorer. It’s just not in his make-up to be a provider the way Lacazette is. When working together, it makes logical sense to have Aubameyang at the end of moves with his partner as creator-in-chief. But with Lacazette just as much of goal threat, the additional strings to his bow would provide Arsenal with a totally new attacking approach should the Frenchman be tasked with going it alone up top.
Here’s why: switching to one lone striker gives Arsenal the opportunity to beef up its midfield core – which last season was far from flowing with creativity. Laca and Auba contributed to 50 of the team’s 112 competitive goals last season, with both strikers scoring over three times as much as anyone else.
Having to provide for themselves at times last season meant they had to win big games on their own – namely the superb 4-2 win in Valencia.
If service was provided for Lacazette, he can get the players who underperformed last year by relying on the goalscoring qualities of the deadly duo to the highest level again – by forcing them to do their job in the absence of Aubameyang.
It would be a risky ploy for Unai Emery to undertake, but somewhere down the line, Arsenal’s midfielders will have to step up – these guys can’t be expected to do everything themselves.
And perhaps the best way to drum that into this squad low on morale is to start planning for the future – with Lacazette as the sole striker.