Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Arsenal, Premier League 2020-21Getty

‘Aubameyang hasn’t lost hunger after humongous contract’ – Arsenal star may need central role, says Smith

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has lost none of his hunger for goals despite signing a “humungous” contract at Arsenal, says Alan Smith.

A talismanic presence at Emirates Stadium has been finding the going tough in the final third of late.

He has found the target just four times across all competitions in 2020-21, with only two of those coming in the Premier League.

Arsenal rely heavily on their captain to provide an attacking spark and have looked out of sorts at times as a collective amid the toils of their skipper.

Plenty have pointed to the fact that Aubameyang is being stifled in a role on the left flank, while others have questioned his appetite after committing to a lucrative new deal.

Smith admits that the Gabonese needs to be moved inside if he is to rediscover his spark, with Alexandre Lacazette failing to convince in a No.9 berth, but he is not buying the criticism when it comes to fresh terms.

The former Gunners striker told the Evening Standard: “The fact that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hasn’t scored from open play in the league since the opening day does tend to point in a worrying direction.

“If one of the world’s best finishers can’t find the net in seven games, what does that say about the team as a whole? Well, it says for a start that the number of chances created has dropped. The Gunners don’t carve out the opportunities of old.

“In fairness, that’s bound to happen when a coach is concentrating on organisation and solidity, when he’s determined to eradicate flimsy defending in favour of a disciplined approach that gives little away.

“Some say he is wasted on the left, but I can’t agree with that when he has shone so brightly from that position in the past.

“Mind you, his success from that flank partly depends on the centre-forward’s input and Alexandre Lacazette has fallen into a slump that’s not helping. It might be time to move the captain inside.

“As for the accusation Aubameyang has lost his hunger after signing that humongous contract, I’m not having that. The 31-year-old doesn’t seem the type to coast along. He likes scoring too much to be going through the motions.

“A lack of creativity doesn’t help his cause, a shortfall that leads to Arsenal struggling against sides adopting a low block. Leeds, however, don’t go near that tactic, with Bielsa insisting on attacking verve. As a result, this might be a day for Auba’s huge grin.”

Mikel Arteta will be looking to find a winning formula when he names a starting XI to face Leeds on Sunday, with Arsenal eager to offer a positive response to the 3-0 defeat they suffered at the hands of Aston Villa prior to the November international break.