Arsenal are rumored to have already agreed personal terms with Borussia Dortmund striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang though I am seeing conflicting reports on whether Dortmund are ready to sell him. Still, football fans don’t care and during transfer windows often treat all rumors as facts. With that in mind… WELCOME TO ARSENAL AUBA!
I’ve seen Auba play a lot, especially last season and I feel like both my own eyes and the stats tell a similar story about how he plays.
Auba scored 31 goals last season and 12 of them were inside the 6 yard box. Alexis led Arsenal with 8 goals in the 6 yard box last season (2nd to Benteke) and Luis Suarez led la Liga last season with 8 goals in the 6. Watch Auba play and you will see immediately that he’s the type of player who loves to poach in and around the 6 yard box. In fact, almost all of his goals come from the area right in front of goal which I call the “Prime” area. 24 of his 31 goals were scored in prime.
(visualization from Squawka.com)
This isn’t a one-off for Aubameyang. This season he already has 6 goals in the 6 yard box and zero goals from outside the box. This is just his style of play: he seems to have a nose for goal and is the guy always there on the end of a hopeful cross in the box or a flubbed save.
One thing that’s frustrating about Arsenal this season is that the team aren’t getting those same shots in the 6 yard box as they were last season, especially Alexis who is turned creator this year. Aubameyang already has 15 shots in the 6 yard box this year in 15 appearances. Arsenal have only 22 shots in the 6, averaging just 1 a game compared to Man City and United who average 1.5.
Whether Auba would add more shots to the Arsenal system is an unknown but I strongly suspect that he would.
Aubameyang finished 27% of his overall shots last season and is finishing again at a 28% rate this season. 20% finishing is what you should expect from a striker and Auba’s numbers are slightly higher than average because he is so prolific in front of goal and so rarely takes shots outside the 18 yard box.
His propensity to get into the furthest forward positions leads to a ton of “Big Chances” which are the one-v-ones with the keeper or super close, less than six yard shots. This was the main reason Alexis Sanchez scored so many goals for Arsenal last season; Alexis scored 67% of his shots in the 6. Aubameyang scored “only” 55%.
That said, Auba was so ever-present in and around the 6 yard box that he actually left 25 additional Big Chances on the table last season and has missed 18 already this season. This is a bit of a contradiction with overall excellent finishing numbers but I can tell you from having watched him play he can be frustrating sometimes with his profligate Big Chance finishing.
He also scored 4 counter-attacking goals last season but again finished below average rate. His finishing was 29% on counters while Bundesliga average was 36%. Counter-attacking goals and shots are not very common and there could be a lot of statistical variation due to the low sample size, but over his career he’s scored 17 counter attacking goals on 80 shots, 21% finishing. Having watched him play I can confirm that there are a number of times when you expect him to score and he simply doesn’t. If there’s something I worry about with Auba it’s that Arsenal “supporters” will get on his back as soon as he misses a few big chances or a good counter attacking chance.
What else does he do?
Actually, not much. He completed just 20 dribbles last season, made 25 key passes (shots for teammates), and had just 2 assists. He also doesn’t participate in build-up play. He has less than 14 passes per game at Dortmund.
Because he doesn’t dribble, doesn’t pass, and isn’t looking to collect the ball and hold-up waiting for a teammate, he also doesn’t turn the ball over very often. In that sense, he’s not even remotely a replacement for Alexis. In fact, he’s more like Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, or maybe what Wenger wanted Theo Walcott to become. But if Arsenal sell Alexis, Aubameyang isn’t really his replacement, and they will need to find another creative player to replace him. That could explain why there is so much noise about Malcom.