‘Cunning’ Aubameyang billed as Arsenal’s best lone frontman option despite not being a natural

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang Alexandre Lacazette Arsenal 2019-20
Getty Images
Former Gunners striker Alan Smith admits the Gabonese would rather have someone alongside him, but sees him as the right fit to lead the line

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the right man to lead the line for Arsenal as a lone frontman, says Alan Smith, despite not being a natural for the role.

The Gunners have a number of attacking options from which to select.

Alexandre Lacazette is in charge of their No.9 shirt and is a proven performer when it comes to filling a central berth.

When the Frenchman makes the starting line-up, then Aubameyang is normally nudged out to a wider role.

He has thrived in that berth, but has also shown that he can operate by himself up top.

Former Arsenal striker Smith sees a man with 43 goals in 67 appearances as the ideal candidate to get the nod when Unai Emery decides to go with only one frontman.

He told the Evening Standard ahead of a Premier League trip to Liverpool which presents a number of selection posers to the Gunners boss: “It would be pretty bold, for example, to start with all three of Arsenal’s forwards. Picking Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and new-boy Nicolas Pepe might be a step too far. 

“For a start, it may grant too much encouragement to the home side’s free-running full-backs, Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson. Constantly tracking back with this pair wouldn’t suit Aubameyang and Pepe.   

“One option is to play Aubameyang through the middle, from where he did so well in the opener at Newcastle.

“I couldn’t help but admire the striker’s clever runs off the ball to offer a target. We all know he’s fast, but there was a cunning to his movement that made life tough for his opponents. 

“Drifting off shoulders, staying out of eye lines, he offered a constant threat. While leading the line on his own doesn’t come naturally, Aubameyang’s movement could be used against a Liverpool backline that seems to be defending a little higher this season.

“Such a combination would lead to several offside calls, which is where the present way of officiating leaves me frustrated. 

“I’m not talking about VAR deciding whether a goal should be chalked off for offside — that’s fairly clear cut — but if Aubameyang escapes down the left, for instance, and the linesman incorrectly thinks he’s off, the flag will go up and everyone stops.

Article continues below

“But who can say whether that move would have led to a goal? Because VAR doesn’t get involved here, you could argue that the new system takes away more than it gives.”

VAR has already sparked controversy during its first season of use in the Premier League, but Arsenal have avoided any contentious incidents to this point.

They will be looking for that run to continue at Anfield, with two sides boasting 100 per cent starts set to put their faultless records on the line.