In an exclusive interview with Sky Sports, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang discusses Nicolas Pepe, Arsenal's new attacking trio, their similarities with Liverpool and his targets for the season.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette struck up a prolific partnership last season scoring 50 goals, but this season there's a new dimension to the Arsenal attack with the addition of club-record signing Nicolas Pepe.
"It is going to be crazy - everybody is excited," Aubameyang tells Sky Sports when discussing playing alongside Lacazette and new £72m man Pepe. "I am looking forward to it."
It was something every Arsenal fan was looking forward to and they got a brief glimpse of the trio playing together when Pepe, who scored 23 goals for Lille last season, came on at half-time in the Gunners' 2-1 victory over Burnley last Saturday
There were promising signs for the trio, who were on the field together for 26 minutes. In that time Aubameyang scored the Gunners' winner, but Lacazette, who grabbed Arsenal's opener, and Pepe all showed flashes of what they can do as the Gunners started a campaign with back-to-back wins for the first time in 10 years.
And now Unai Emery could unleash all three from the start when Arsenal travel to Anfield to face Liverpool, live on Sky Sports, and Aubameyang is hoping the trio can hit it off straight away.
"Hopefully, yes," he told Sky Sports. "I think we can do it.
"First of all, he speaks French so it will be easy for him to settle in and play with us. He only started training with us a few weeks ago but it's good to have him with us. He's started well.
"Last season he was amazing. He'll bring us speed and excellent finishing, and that's good for us."
"The structure of playing in their game plan is very strong and we needed to adapt to that. Afterwards we needed to impose our capacity, our quality, our skills, our structure also offensively and defensively. I think we did that. But for example, today, if we can take off the result, I think we can do better."
'We can match Liverpool'
Arsenal's opponents on Saturday, Liverpool, have a formidable trio of their own in Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino.
They combined to produce 69 goals to help Liverpool gain an incredible 97 points in the Premier League last season as they finished runners-up to Manchester City.
Salah, Mane and Firmino's 2018/19 stats (Liverpool)
Aubameyang believes there are similarities between Liverpool's front three and Arsenal's new trio, and insists there's no reason why the Gunners' frontline can't be just as successful.
"As we've seen from last season, Liverpool play with three up front and they play very well. Why not us? I think we can do it," he added.
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"It will be a tough game against them. They are great players. They always try to go forward and try to get goals and assist each other. They are one of the best trios in the world.
"I see a lot of similarities," he added. "Pepe and me, we are quick players like Mane and Salah, while Laca is a player who can keep the ball and is really good with his feet like Firmino. So yes, we can say we are close enough."
Aubameyang, Lacazette and Pepe's 2018/19 stats
|Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)||31||7|
|Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal)||19||10|
|Nicolas Pepe (Lille)||23||11|
Auba ready to play wide
A switch to a front three at Arsenal does not come without some sacrifices, though, with Aubameyang set to play in a wide role when paired alongside Lacazette and Pepe.
The Gabon international started through the middle against Newcastle, scoring his side's winner and while that is his preferred role, he's ready for the challenge of playing out wide, just as he did to good effect in scoring another Arsenal winner against Burnley.
"If asked, playing out wide is not a problem," he said. "I've played a lot of times on the right and the left during my career, so I am used to it."
When asked about the challenges of playing out wide, he added: "You have to run a bit more! You have to provide a few more crosses for the guys in the middle.
"It's a bit of a different job. When you are a striker you have to keep hold of the ball and you have to score goals. When you are out wide you have to run and defend a bit more than if you are playing as a striker through the middle, but it's not a problem."
“It is another weapon for us. When I play as the striker I am happy but if the team needs some help and I play wide, then I will do it.”
Auba targets more
Following his arrival from Borussia Dortmund on Deadline Day in January 2018, for a then club-record fee, Aubameyang's record stands up against the very best in the Premier League. Since making his Premier League debut against Everton in February 2018, only Salah (36) has scored more goals in the top-flight than Aubameyang.
Aubameyang's Premier League record
|Games||Goals||Goals per game||Assists|
Arsenal's opening win at Newcastle marked his 50th appearance in the Premier League in which he registered his 33rd goal in the competition. The only players to have scored more than him during their first 50 appearances are Alan Shearer (41), Andrew Cole (41), Mohamed Salah (35) and Kevin Phillips (34).
Aubameyang, who shared last season's Golden Boot with Liverpool duo Salah and Mane, wants more.
"My target this year is to get more goals than last season," Aubameyang said.
"It was only my first full season so I can be happy because I shared the Golden Boot with Salah and Mane from Liverpool. It was a big challenge, but I did it and I'm really happy.
"This season, first of all, hopefully we can reach our goal of qualifying for the Champions League and of course, personally yes, if I can get more goals than last season, I'd be happy.
"Hopefully it's going to be a good season for Arsenal."