COMMENT By Seye Omidiora Follow on Twitter
In normal circumstances, eight league goals after 13 gameweeks would be seen as a decent return for any striker. When the said frontman then leads the scoring charts – albeit jointly – in his first full season at a club in transition you’re inclined to cut him some slack.
However, Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been the target of sticklers’ criticism in recent weeks owing to his lack of goals against the big teams. He has fired blanks in seven ‘big games’ since his move last winter, and you can expect talk of his scoreless run to spring up before Sunday’s North London derby against Tottenham Hotspur.
While the forward’s return of eight goals, all second-half strikes, is consistent with Arsenal’s season so far of not having a half-time lead, you sense his return over the course of the campaign will be key in determining the Gunners’ top four hopes, as previously noted by Arsenal Correspondent Chris Wheatley.
Have the condemnatory remarks leveled at the Gabon international’s door been unfair?
Perhaps a refresher would do everyone a whole world of good.
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR (1-0) ARSENAL (10/02/2018)
Ironically, the same opponent he’s set to face this weekend. Spurs triumphed by a lone goal at Wembley, and the game will probably be remembered as the day Petr Cech’s heroics prevented the red half of North London from getting a real pasting at the ‘adopted’ home of the enemy.
It was only the Gabon international’s second game for the club, so it was no surprise he cut a peripheral figure. He attempted no shots all game.
ARSENAL (0-3) MANCHESTER CITY (25/02/2018)
The Carabao Cup final put Arsene Wenger’s side in the crosshairs of the rampant City side. The Citizens were efficient on the day and scored from all three efforts on target.
The whole Arsenal side may have performed really poorly, but you just wonder how the game would have panned out had the frontman taken his huge chance in the eighth minute with both sides still level. Sergio Aguero opened the scoring 10 minutes later and Wenger’s side were sitting ducks from that moment onwards.
ARSENAL (0-3) MANCHESTER CITY (01/03/2018)
A few days after their League Cup defeat, the North London side had the chance at getting even with the Manchester giants, but three first-half goals were enough to knock the stuffing out of the hosts in freezing conditions at the Emirates Stadium. Aubameyang had a second-half penalty saved by Ederson too, which banished lingering hopes of a fight back.
MANCHESTER UNITED (2-1) ARSENAL (29/04/2018)
With Wenger’s focus firmly fixed on Arsenal’s Europa League second-leg against Atletico Madrid, the Frenchman rested several first-team players for their visit to Old Trafford. The loss wasn’t surprising given the state of affairs, but it was to be yet another frustrating evening for Auba as he fluffed his lines when a half-decent chance fell his way a few minutes before the break with the away side 1-0 down.
In truth, it wasn’t the clearest of opportunities; however, a better finish would’ve been expected from Arsenal’s number 14.
ARSENAL (0-2) MANCHESTER CITY (12/08/2018)
Unai Emery’s charges were never in this one on a tough opening game to start a new era at the Emirates.
Petr Cech was the home side’s best player in the encounter, which tells you all you need to know. Auba completed the game but couldn’t impact proceedings as a somewhat second-string City, not like it means much anyway given their strength in depth, eased to a win.
CHELSEA (3-2) ARSENAL (18/08/2018)
The Stamford Bridge defeat will probably haunt the frontman on account of his inability to put away a couple of gilt-edged opportunities in the opening half. The first saw him blaze over from seven yards out with the goal gaping – Alvaro Morata then increased Chelsea’s lead barely 60 seconds later – before also dragging a left-footed effort wide of Kepa Arrizabalaga’s near post which would’ve sent the Gunners 3-2 ahead at the break.
He did play a part in the away side halving the deficit as it was his concerted pressing that led to a turnover which ended with Henrikh Mkhitaryan scoring.
Nevertheless, it was a loss that hurt every Gooner as they felt they deserved more… and they were probably within their rights to feel aggrieved.
ARSENAL (1-1) LIVERPOOL (03/11/2018)
A home draw against Liverpool, City’s challengers for the title, may pass as the strangest of the lot for the frontman, because Emery’s side dominated possession and just about edged the play but the attacker just couldn’t get into the game. He could only complete five passes – the least of any player on the pitch – before his withdrawal as the game moved into the final quarter.
Of the aforementioned games, only once has the frontman played in the inside forward role that he’s thrived in for the Gunners. He, ironically, didn’t have a good game against the Reds but the fact he plays much better when played in tandem with Alexander Lacazette shouldn’t see Emery experiment.
Frankly, his luckless run has been strange owing to his series of surprising misses. On Sunday, he’ll have another chance of halting it in the 196th North London derby.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side are in amazing form having won seven of their last eight league games, with a comprehensive 3-1 win against Chelsea last time out.
Truthfully, the Lilywhites have had to ride their luck in the aforementioned run, but their ability to get results while not playing particularly well will test Arsenal. They may be winless at the Emirates since a 3-2 win in November 2010, but Sunday’s encounter represents a feasible opportuntiy to end that wretched run of results.
For Aubameyang, you cannot argue with his return of 18 league goals in 26 games since his January move, but he may need to break his unusual duck against the top sides sooner than later...otherwise, those dissenting ‘flat-track bully’ voices may just grow a bit louder if he fires another big-game blank!