When Arsenal were linked with Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in January 2018, it seemed like a questionable decision – not because of the Gabonese forward’s abilities but rather a case of his attitude off the pitch. So bad it was that then Bayern Munich boss Jupp Heynckes was quoted to have said “I would refuse to sign such players,” via Goal when asked about Aubameyang at the time.
No one can argue with Aubameyang’s on-field record. For a player who scored 141 times in just 213 appearances for the German club (via Whoscored) and was equally as prolific at his previous club Saint-Etienne, his abilities were without doubt but his attitude was much food for thought.
From fans, pundits, staff and even his own team-mates – he was dropped and suspended by Borussia Dortmund for being late for training on no fewer than three occasions and also went AWOL to Milan, as well as taking part in a sponsorship film without his club’s permission. Such behaviour did not go down well with his team-mates – and neither did his celebration when he produced a Spiderman-style Nike mask after scoring for Borussia against Schalke last season, a move which was branded “stupid” by his own skipper Marcel Schmelzer.
Fast forward to August 2019 and Aubameyang has been the dream signing for Arsenal so far. For someone who was slammed with a bad reputation, he has been a positive to the Gunners fortunes. So far so good, his bad reputation has been good enough for Arsenal. Towards the end of last season, the Gunners faced Stoke City at the Emirates and Arsenal were already 2-0 up courtesy of the 30-year-old.
The Gunners were then awarded a penalty which Aubameyang was supposed to take and round off a simple hat-trick. Instead, he called up teammate Alexandre Lacazette who was without a goal in two months and let him score one for his confidence. The pair now have a trademark celebration they perform when either of them scores on the pitch and they’ve been formed a formidable partnership since then.
Only a matter of time before the famous handshake celebration sees them hit 100 goals between them.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette have scored 73 goals between them across all competitions since February 2018.
Striking up some partnership. ? https://t.co/RCPJ6pjfin
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 17, 2019
Much more recently, Aubameyang took yet another unselfish decision and put his bad reputation tag to bed. Nicolas Pepe had shown promise since his £72million summer arrival from Lille but was still goalless as Arsenal headed into Sunday’s Premier League clash at Emirates Stadium, a match that the top rated bookies had down as an easy home win.
With Arsenal a goal and a man down with an hour to play, Matteo Guendouzi won a penalty – and Aubameyang decided to hand over the responsibility to 24-year-old Pepe. The joy in the Ivorian’s face was evident and he was quick to give Aubameyang a quick hug. The 30-year-old striker eventually scored a beautiful free-kick late on that gave Arsenal all three points and was seen celebrating with Pepe’s trademark style. Beautiful stuff.
For someone chasing the Golden Boot, more so in a very competitive league like the Premier League (for forwards), the player must definitely have his teammate’s best interests at heart.
So beautiful was his all-round game was and Arsenal boss Unai Emery was quick to laud the striker for his decision during the game.
“Yes, it’s Aubameyang who is responsible for penalties,” Emery said. “Also Lacazette, and today for me is a very big decision from Aubameyang to let Pepe shoot to give him confidence and the possibility to score. Emery said to the club’s official website.
“Really, the responsibility is Aubameyang and I was happy when I saw that decision from Aubameyang.”
Could that “big” decision open the floodgates for a formidable partnership between the trio of Aubameyang, Pepe and Lacazette? Only time will tell.
On a personal level, the Gabonese forward has been just as influential for Arsenal this season.
He’s established himself as Arsenal’s star man since arriving at the club, but few can really comprehend just how valuable Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is to the Gunners.
The striker has scored 48 goals in 72 appearances for the north London side; an excellent return for a team who have been far from their best in recent years (via Whoscored).
But one thing we do know is that Arsenal would be significantly worse off if it wasn’t for the Gabon frontman.
Aubameyang has scored six goals in the Premier League this term as the Gunners have picked up 11 points from six games, but if you look a little bit closer you can see just how crucial the striker is.
Of the 11 points that Arsenal have picked up, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s goals have directly resulted in the Gunners picking up 10 of those 11 points this season.
Aubameyang got the only goal of the game in the 1-0 victory over Newcastle, giving the north London side three points.
His effort in the victory over Burnley was the difference between drawing 1-1 and winning the game 2-1, meaning that his input gifted his side an additional two points in that game.
While the Gunners lost the game against Liverpool, Aubameyang struck again with Arsenal’s equaliser in the north London derby with Spurs, meaning that his side salvaged a point late on.
One thing is certain, Aubameyang might have a bad reputation from his past but in his short time at Arsenal, he’s made a really positive impact.
And finally, while 30-year-old strikers like him should be bothered about racking up numbers, the Gabonese has been a role model to youngsters as well – never failing to support them when he can.
Earlier in pre-season, Arsenal youngster, Folarin Balogun scored a six-minute hat-trick for Steve Bould’s young Gunners (via the Sun).
The 18-year-old boasted a prolific record, hitting 22 goals in 23 appearances (via Transfermarkt) for Arsenal’s young Gunners last season. It won’t be long before he’s dubbed the next Aubameyang but before then the Gabonese was quick to give his blessing.
Last season’s joint top-scorer in the Premier League responded to a profile of Balogun by saying: “This young boy is [fire emoji], watch out for him” quoted via the same source.
In a nutshell, if Aubameyang’s “bad reputation” has yielded many good results and continues to deliver the goods, then more of that – as it is what Arsenal need.