Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is a Strange Striker

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 14: Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang during the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 Second Leg match between Arsenal and Stade Rennais at Emirates Stadium on March 14, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Rob Newell - CameraSport via Getty Images)

Arsenal advanced to the Europa League quarterfinals after overturning a 3-1 first-leg deficit against Stade Rennes. One player was key to that 3-0 second-leg success; Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

The Gabonese striker netted a brace and added an assist to help earn a 4-3 aggregate victory for the Gunners. However, he also missed two big scoring chances. Believe it or not, that was a season-defining performance for Aubameyang for a few reasons.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: Arsenal’s Odd Crown Jewel

Big Chances Missed & Goals

‘Auba’ finds himself near the top of the Premier League goalscoring charts with 17 strikes at the time of writing. That is good for joint second-most along with Mohamed Salah and Harry Kane but behind Sergio Aguero‘s 18.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang does lead the league in one ignominious statistic, big chances missed. The Arsenal man has missed 19 sitters in the Premier League alone this season, four more than Callum Wilson, who sits second in this table.

At first glance, this seems strange. Just how does a player who consistently misses big scoring chances still rank as one of the league’s best goal scorers?

Expected Goals (xG) & Shots

Another stat in which Aubameyang leads the Premier League is xG. This is a relatively new statistic which measures how many goals a player is expected to score given the chances they get in the course of a match, season or career.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Understat.com

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang not only leads the division this season but he also has almost one full xG more than his next competitor, Salah. In the world of xG, this is a fairly large difference. Basically what it means is that no striker has gotten as many good scoring chances this season.

This table also shows that Aubameyang is a very wasteful striker. Of the other strikers on the list with 15 or more league goals this season, he is one of just two to underperform compared to their xG, along with Salah.

Shots taken can also help to illustrate the difference between most top strikers and Aubameyang. The Arsenal man has 75 shots in the Premier League this season, which ranks as the seventh-most in the division.

Among those who have taken more shots are Salah (99), Aguero (95) and Kane (93). This means that Aubameyang’s 18.68 xG was gained with fewer shots than his main rivals for the golden boot.

Keep in mind that this also means that, in a way, Aubameyang is more prolific than these other top strikers as he needs fewer shots to produce a similar goal tally.

Season-Defining Match

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is certainly a wasteful striker, we can see that with his big chances missed. However, he more than makes up for it with his other abilities. For example, his movement and pace are top-class and he uses them very well.

Consider the assist he grabbed against Rennes in the second leg. The Gabonese striker picked up the ball on the left flank near the touchline before driving into the box and creating a little space for himself with a one-two pass. From there, he chipped a cross to Ainsley Maitland-Niles, who finished the move.

Aubameyang used his pace and movement off the ball to create the chance for his teammate but has created chances for himself from similar positions fairly regularly over the course of his career.

The striker also bagged two goals, both of which were tap-ins. The first came very early in the match and was a result of good buildup from Maitland-Niles and Aaron Ramsey, as well as excellent positioning from Aubameyang to be in the right place at the right time.

His second was even better, regardless of how easy the touch looked. Sead Kolasinac did most of the work with his excellent run from midfield and accurate cross. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang did his part, however, and was able to give his defender the slip with his pace and he kept his composure to make himself available in a dangerous position.

However, two late chances to make it a hat trick went wanting. The first was an attempted chip which went wide after Aubameyang went clear in on goal. The next came to the striker near the penalty spot and he missed the next with a first-time effort.

Both could and probably should have been put away, but neither were.

That is what makes Aubameyang’s Rennes performance career-defining. He netted two goals, bagged an assist, took home the match ball but still walked away with less than he should have.

The Last Word

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can be surmised fairly simply: he is a striker who creates a tonne of chances and then misses many of them. However, that certainly doesn’t mean he is not a top striker.

Especially when playing alongside a more traditional number nine, such as Alexandre Lacazette, Aubameyang’s penchant for being in the right place at the right time makes a huge difference for his club. It has even made the difference between advancement and elimination in the Europa League.

It may be poetic justice that the striker makes a mess of so many shots, however, that doesn’t negate his quality. Simply put, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is a strange striker.

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