The attacker’s form has continued to plummet, with recent off-field concerns adding to the plight.

The arrival of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang at the Emirates Stadium was a sight of sheer joy for the Gunners. For many, the Gabonese international sparked a ray of hope, as the North Londoners looked for a lethal goalscorer. In Arsene Wenger’s penultimate season, the fans expected to see someone that they were missing on and off after Robin van Persie.

Aubameyang’s start at the club pointed in the same direction as well. The attacker netted 22 goals in each of his first two full Premier League campaigns, preceded by 10 goals from 12 matches immediately after his move. Arsenal’s turmoil – one that started with Wenger’s departure – saw only one spark of hope that carried the team and that was the Gabonese striker’s impeccable goalscoring consistency.

However, after enjoying a brief success under Mikel Arteta, Aubameyang’s run has gone pale, at least for a good season and a half now. In addition to his on-field struggles, off-field disciplinary issues have engulfed the 32-year-old’s Arsenal career. After another set of events, Aubameyang has been stripped of his duties as the club captain and was excluded from the subsequent fixtures. He also is heavily rumoured to leave the club. So, what went wrong and is going wrong for the 2016 African Footballer of the Year? Here are some factors that have contributed to the decline:

Recent decline in form

For an attacker of the stature of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang , scoring just 10 goals in a Premier League campaign is a disappointing figure. The former Dortmund star has not been able to better his 2020/21 figures, as he has scored just four in 14 appearances so far in the campaign. The difference, however, has been on his side, more than the environment around him.

Like the previous seasons, Aubameyang has taken an equivalent number of shots per 90 minutes. That is to say, the opportunities have come his way. However, the main difference is his under-performance in terms of conversion. For the first time since arriving at Arsenal, Aubameyang has been under-performing his xG starting the 2020/21 season.

Talking about this season alone, his four goals have come off an xG of 5.8. Similarly, the former Lille forward’s wastefulness in front of the goal has been coupled with rustic movement. The incisiveness and off-the-ball movement to create space and meet the ball have clearly diminished in his play. All of this has contributed to the lack of clinical finishing and decline in form for the striker.

Arsenal’s change of approach

Mikel Arteta placed Aubameyang as one of Arsenal’s pillars in his initial days (Courtesy: Bleacher Report)

Arsenal’s project under Mikel Arteta placed Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as one of the most important figures at the club in its initial days. Not only did the forward play an exemplary part in Arteta’s first triumph, but helped to steady the ship. With the turn of events, however, the forward is no longer what he used to be. Expectedly, the Spaniard’s approach has changed in a similar fashion.

The former Dortmund star used to play a part in almost every goal that Arsenal created and scored. However, with the rise of the likes of Kieran Tierney and Emile Smith-Rowe, Arsenal’s approach has differed this season. The “get the ball to Aubameyang” approach has changed to using Tierney to land the ball in the box. Late runs in the box from Martin Odegaard and Smith-Rowe, hence, have become the key weapon in Arsenal’s offensive approach. Consequently, the midfield duo shares 10 out of 25 goals that Arsenal have scored this season in the Premier League.

Similarly, this approach demands a striker with link-up abilities, which is where Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang trails his fellow attacker Alexander Lacazette. With youngster Gabriel Martinelli finding his form as a lethal finisher and Lacazette providing a better link-up solution, Aubameyang’s trajectory as an Arsenal player has started to dip.

Off-field implications

While on-field struggles rise, the off-field issues of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have also been a major cause for the loss of his stature. Arteta’s tendency to be adamant about his dressing room norms and expectation to make his senior players exemplary to the young ones, have all piled up against Aubameyang. The recent incident that saw him get stripped of his captaincy duties is another such example.

From being a crucial part, that needed robust backing from the manager after winning the FA Cup, to what he is now, the dynamics have changed inside the club for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. In particular, the relationship with the manager, with whom he once shared a high, is close to a breaking point. That has accelerated his fall as an Arsenal player. With the team continuing to deliver without him – it might be easier than ever for the club to move on. On the other hand, a winter transfer looks likely for the player.

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