Just like during the match against Wolves on Sunday night, our captain was nowhere to be found after the final whistle when it was time for Arsenal players to face the media.
Seemingly disinterested during the match, Aubameyang did not speak to the press or fans after. In fact, he’s said little even on Twitter since 16 November.
Is he coasting on his new contract? Disinterested in Arsenal because they’re rubbish? Realising he’s made a massive mistake? All accusations you will find in abundance across the internet, but is there any truth to them?
I doubt very much that Aubameyang physically writes the notes that appear under his name in the matchday programme, but he most likely dictates or signs off on what the club write for him.
He will have agreed, then, to print, “It’s been nearly a year now since Mikel Arteta took over as manager and when you look back on the last 12 months I think we have progressed a lot as a team. Last year we were at the point that we were doing – and we have to say the truth – we were doing badly. But maybe it wasn’t about the managers but about the players. The way we played and the way we behaved on the pitch. I think the behaviours were not so good and he changed that.”
I highlighted that section just in case you missed it. This is our captain admitting that the players weren’t doing their jobs and, again on Sunday night, we saw the exact same. Auba might think Arsenal have changed a lot since the days of Unai Emery but it’s hard to understand what he’s talking about.
Sure, we concede slightly fewer goals, but that’s it.
Even under Emery last season we had more points after 10 games. This is our worst start to a league campaign in almost 40 years.
We have lost 50% of our league games and are on course, at the current rate, to get 49 points by the end of the season. Safe from relegation then, at least.
The problem I have with what Auba says about the players is manifold.
Firstly, it confirms what many of us have believed for years, stretching back to the days of Wenger – there is a culture at Arsenal were players have it too easy.
Next, it pegs the team as one filled with players who are not capable of managing themselves. Unless a manager can elicit a performance, well, they’ll probably not bother themselves.
There are many reasons that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is suffering a goal drought this season, but not all of them are to do with the tactics and personnel around him. He can and should be doing more as captain of this team and its highest earner.
But let’s look at his stats this season compared to last, aware that we are only 10 games in I have adjusted that so it reflects an average over 36-games as that’s how many Aubameyang played last campaign.
I’ve tried to focus only on stats which are generally in his control. For instance, his tackle success rate is more dependent on him than the % of passes he plays forward as that relies on a teammate to get ahead of him.
I should note that I wrote all of the above before comparing these stats which I think tell a very clear story:
What is clear right away is in how many metrics Auba is actually doing better this season – more than you’d think. He’s outperforming last season in all but 15 of the above stats.
He is passing more and being tasked with bringing others into play rather than being the end point. That’s going to hit his goal tally, as you can see. At his current rate, he will score seven league goals by the end of the campaign, some distance from the 22 he managed last season.
Similarly, he’s going to ground less and, when he does, he seems to be doing it in a more intelligent way.
Something else Auba noted in his programme notes this weekend was that he also wants to learn. “Everyone knows where I prefer to play,” he said, “but this doesn’t matter because I prefer to have more than just one option where I can play. That’s because I want to help the team but also because I want to learn as well. You learn every day, whether you are young or older, and I’m still learning and truthfully I feel good everywhere. I believe it can develop your game if you play in different positions.”
We can but hope that the attitude we saw from Auba on Sunday night was a one-off and not an indication of a change of heart.
He’s learning to play a new way but he needs players of a decent standard around him to do that. More importantly, Aubameyang needs help with creating.
We can’t expect Auba to do it all and it seems, to me, that Sunday might just have been a player p*ssed at having to.
Can you blame him?