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Mikel Arteta playing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in his best position

Mikel Arteta has not once used Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as a centre-forward. As a result, he is using the Arsenal striker in his best position.

An increasing number of Arsenal fans have grown frustrated with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s position on the left-wing. Aubameyang was a prolific centre-forward during his time at Borussia Dortmund. Whenever he has played through the middle at Arsenal, he has again been prolific. It seems silly to move a clinical goalscorer out of the central striking position.

And yet, that is precisely what has happened. First Arsene Wenger, then Unai Emery, and now Mikel Arteta, all with the idea of incorporating Alexandre Lacazette to lead the line.

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In a Question and Answer with the official YouTube channel, Arteta, when speaking about the role of the striker, provided a clue as to why Aubameyang has been shifted out wide:

“The striker used to be around the box just to finalize situations, but now they need to be able to link, drop, to start the pressing.”

These are phases of play that Lacazette excels at. His firs touch is excellent, he is an accurate and creative passer, he plays between the lines neatly and has the strength to hold of centre-backs who come to challenge him. He also works extremely hard off the ball, instigating the high press with effectiveness, timing, and spatial intelligence.

Aubameyang is not built in the same mould. He is much more reminiscent of a penalty box striker, a pure, out-and-out goalscorer who does not want to be involved in play, likes to stand on the shoulder of the defence, and is always looking to make runs into the channels in behind.

Arteta, then, has adapted Aubameyang’s role such that he can still play in the same striking manner but do so from a wide starting position, without the other responsibilities of centre-forward play. In fact, by taking Aubameyang out of the centre-forward position and moving him wide, Arteta fields his star striker in his best position.

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In the 696 Premier League minutes that Aubameyang has played under Arteta, he has six goals, averaging one every 116 minutes. Only Sergio Aguero scored at a faster rate this season. Under Emery this season, he scored a goal every 146.25 minutes.

Under Arteta, Aubameyang has a higher expected goals per 90, more touches per 90, more touches in the penalty area per 90, more dribbles completed per 90. Aubameyang is more involved, more dangerous, scoring at a faster rate, is impacting the game more frequently and in a greater manner, and Arsenal are playing better as a result.

Next: Arsenal: Ranking the four Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang outcomes

Arteta is using Aubameyang in his best position, and it is not as a centre-forward, however backwards that may seem.

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