Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is a goalscorer, born and bred.
In his first half-season with the Gunners, he had the second best goalscoring rate in the league, tallying 10 goals and four assists over 13 games. He split the Golden Boot with Liverpool’s dynamic pairing of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane in 2018/19 with 22 league strikes to his name, then finished second this past season with the same tally.
And now, he’s set to win it this year. Yes, he’ll have similar competition, but almost every one of them has a detracting factor that could potentially limit their goalscoring abilities this season, while Aubameyang is fit and raring to go.
First, let’s talk strikers. Jamie Vardy, who won his first Golden Boot last season, will turn 35 before the season ends. Given Leicester’s inability to put chances away after the restart, and the fact that Vardy is becoming increasingly leggy towards the end of games, I expect the Foxes forward to tally respectable numbers, but drop out of contention as the season wears on.
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Danny Ings had a spectacular season last season, finishing even-stevens with our Gabonese talisman, but it was an exceptional year in his career. The last time he surpassed the 20-goal mark, it was to promote Burnley into the top tier in 2013/14. And while he is the focal point of the Southampton attack, they don’t have the supporting cast to maintain his goalscoring run.
Finally, Harry Kane looks set to step back into the fray, not that I reckon he’ll stay long. His last Golden Boot came in 2016/17, and now, five years down the road, he’s stuck in limbo. Ankle injuries, bad patches of form, and poor tactical decisions mean that Kane is going to have to pull off something really special to vault himself up top. He won’t.
And now for the wingers. Mane, Salah, and Raheem Sterling will all put up very strong numbers – they do every season – but with Sterling fighting for a place on the left-wing due to the addition of Ferran Torres, and Mane and Salah’s internal competition in a Liverpool team looking less and less likely to replicate their success of the past two seasons, I predict Aubameyang’s consistent fitness and presence in the starting lineup will be the first leg-up against his touchline-hugging contemporaries.
And, just to make a complete job of it, let’s discuss the dark horses. Raul Jimenez no longer has Matt Doherty’s service into the box, and he scored five headers last season, and another four from crosses. Key provider Adama Traore will also struggle without his right-sided counterpart. Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford are mid-to-low-teens scorers, Aguero is more injury prone by the year, and Timo Werner will kick Tammy Abraham out of the spotlight, but will take a season to settle into the league. Great, I feel a lot better.
But it’s not just superior fitness and consistency that gives Aubameyang the edge over his competition in the race for the Golden Boot; he’s the beating heart of this Arsenal side, primarily because Mikel Arteta’s tactics are keyed towards maximizing his goal tallies.
What, you thought it was a coincidence that he scored all of our goals in the last two rounds of the FA Cup, and the Community Shield? Well think again, because it’s a completely intentional choice.
Each and every one of those was goals was created because Auba was allowed to set up in what I like to call his ‘office’, that little half-space between the full-back and centre-half. It’s where he operated best at Borussia Dortmund, and although he’s switched wings, his numbers continue to climb.
Arteta’s tactics are set in place to maximize the real estate created for him in that half-space, allowing him one-on-one opportunities with the goalkeeper, or space at the top of the box for him to bend shots towards the far post. He uses the mobility of his left wing-back and the passing range of his left-sided full-back to stretch the opposition one way, and calls for his right-sided players to drift wide in the buildup, stretching it them across and creating gaps to exploit.
Furthermore, Alexandre Lacazette has instructions to drift deeper into a false-nine role, opening up space behind. The right-sided central midfielder is then allowed to make runs forward, before either playing a line-breaking ball to the right-winger, or switching play to the left. Their most recent training video, linked below, shows them practicing that exact combination.
More than any of the names listed above, Auba is the focal point of this Arsenal attack, and has proven himself unstoppable in recent months. He’s got two trophies to his name, and is going to be coming out with all guns blazing to win more.
And with the Willan signing, likely retention of Ainsley Maitland-Niles, rise of Kieran Tierney, renewal of Dani Ceballos’s loan deal, not to mention Arsenal’s newest bid for Houssem Aouar, creativity looks to be making a return to the Emirates. Players that will help force-feed Aubameyang chances seem to be at a premium. Long may it continue.
The Gabon international also has a big target to shoot at. With 81 goals to his name in the red-and-white, he looks set to become a centurion at the Emirates this season, an accomplishment that would entrench him still further into Arsenal hearts.
He’s got the tactical advantage, the physical advantage, the advantage of consistency, and he’s just the best damn goalscorer in the league. But hey, if you don’t believe me, look at his face every time he scores. That’s the best proof I have he’ll win it. Because he loves nothing more than scoring a goal for Arsenal. Trophy cabinet upgrade coming soon y’all, mark my words.