Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's role has changed at Arsenal since Mikel Arteta arrived, but what impact is it having on the forward's potency?
Aubameyang has scored just two Premier League goals this season, and failed to register a shot on target in Arsenal's 3-0 defeat by Aston Villa on Sunday evening. In fact, he's registered just 10 shots on target in eight games this season.
The 32-year-old has been moved more to the left-wing under Arteta, and asked to do more defensive work in an Arsenal which has shown signs of becoming more solid. But for Aubameyang, that has meant a drop in goals and shots per game.
|Aubameyang at Arsenal (PL)||Before Arteta||Since Arteta|
|Minutes per goal||126||173|
|Shots per game||2.9||2.3|
Here, the Pitch to Post Review podcast panel discuss Aubameyang's role, and why he may be in a catch-22 situation...
Arteta put his foot down... is it working?
Sky Sports' Gerard Brand:
"There's no denying that Aubameyang is used in a different way under Arteta. In fairness to Arteta, he came in, put his foot down and said: 'This is how I want my forward players playing… you may be scoring a lot of goals… but it isn't winning us more games!'
"I imagine that threw Aubameyang back a bit, and then we essentially had a year-long contract saga. Even Arteta admitted he doubted whether Aubameyang would sign the contract.
"If you think of it from Aubameyang's point of view - expectation has gone up with a £350k-a-week contract, but under Arteta he's playing in a system and being asked to do things which mean he doesn't score as many goals. It's sort of a catch-22. He's probably thinking how do I live up to the contract price tag in a system where I can't score as many?
"Before Arteta he was scoring three in four, since Arteta it's one in two. I don't think there's necessarily a problem with a striker not scoring as much, so long as he helps the team in ways that he wasn't before.
"Whether he's tired or whatever it might be, Aubameyang did not look very interested on Sunday evening, and Arteta alluded to a spirit in the team, which he does actually every week. He won't have been too pleased with him."
Arteta needs to find a way
Sky Sports News' Ben Ransom:
"It's almost like they've worked so much on shape and solidity that they've taken away that explosive X factor that Aubameyang brings. He is an elite-level striker when he's at his best, and he's not even getting into positions, let alone shooting.
"Then shots on target in eight Premier League I think tells its own story. It's a worry, because Lacazette is not scoring either, and as a team and group of forwards they're not scoring.
"Is it right to have Aubameyang out on the left flank? He has proved he can do his defensive work well, and it has proved successful at times. Post-lockdown he scored key goals in big games, two in the FA Cup semi and final to win it for them. He's got his new contract, and it's just gone a bit flat.
"Arteta needs to find a way to get him into those positions, and that may be a slight change of philosophy to allow the team to be more aggressive in attack. He's a player of proven pedigree in a team crying out for goals."
But why do forwards have to do the defensive work?
Sky Sports' Gerard Brand:
"There's a simple answer to this: football has changed. Even in the last 10 years. It's a shame in a way because you don't get as many players who play with a complete freedom, waltz around the pitch, play Hollywood balls, or pick the ball up and run with it. Football is now about pressing, energy, and fitness levels are through the roof.
"So players like Mesut Ozil are a good example, they simply don't work anymore in these systems. Managers want all 11 players running as much as each other, and that's what Arteta wants Aubameyang to do."
Merse: Something has to change
Sky Sports' Paul Merson:
"People are asking: how Arsenal are going to get Aubameyang into the game? If he doesn't score, I don't see what he's bringing to the party at the moment.
"When Aubameyang is out on the wing, he can go 15 minutes without touching the ball. You can't have your star player going that long without touching the ball. How many goals would Jamie Vardy get if you played him out on the left wing? Not as many as he gets now, that's for sure.
"How many moments in a game are the centre-backs petrified of the runs he's making because of his pace? Not as many as say Vardy. If Vardy is shunted out wide, he doesn't score you 25 goals a season.
"Defences are starting to work him out. They are starting to nullify the threat from him from out wide and making life hard for him. They are stopping the cut inside and shot into the far corner. Something has got to change.
"I think they are missing a trick in that I'd have put Aubameyang and Alexandre Lacazette down the middle with Mesut Ozil in behind them in a free role because of Thomas Partey now being in the midfield. But obviously that cannot happen now because Ozil's not in the squad.
"I've played out on the wing for most of my career. When you are out there, you either have so much of the ball you can't breathe or you could not touch the ball, full stop. It's one or the other, there is no in-between. At the moment, he's not seeing enough of the ball where it matters."