When you’ve got two elite strikers as Arsenal do, the big question becomes just how do you accommodate both of them in your starting line-up. Modern football appears to have moved away from the throwback 4-4-2 of yesteryear, with managers appearing to favour more possession and control in midfield.
As such, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s versatility has often been his downfall in trying to stake his claim to being the Gunners’ number nine. The Gabon international’s ability to play from out wide (he has played there 146 times in his career as per Transfermarkt), meant the simple solution for the likes of Arsene Wenger, Unai Emery and even in Freddie Ljungberg’s first couple of games in charge, was to play him from the left. That way, they could ensure £46.5m Alexandre Lacazette could also feature in the first-team.
But with the Frenchman struggling for form and consistency this season – he has found the back of the net just five times – Ljungberg made the bold call to drop one of his big-money stars to the bench on Monday night against West Ham. And boy did the gamble pay off. Aubameyang was unleashed at centre-forward, and the 30-year-old notched his 13th goal across all competitions. And when looking at the underlying numbers of his performance, Ljungberg has been given a great insight into what the former Borussia Dortmund can offer through the middle.
As per Sofascore, his 8.1 match rating was the highest of any player on the pitch, and aside from picking up a goal and an assist, he also provided two key passes and created one big chance. It was an all-round display that showed Aubameyang has more to his game than just the misconception of poaching goals from about five yards out. The £63m-rated star becomes much more difficult to mark because he can drift out wide when he wants, but also find himself in the penalty area at times when he feels like he can get away from his marker and wreak havoc.
Can you get full marks on the Ultimate Arsenal Quiz? Test your knowledge below…
His raw pace means he will always be a threat in behind and it was little surprise to see West Ham look to defend deep whenever they could. That simply meant more time on the ball for the likes of Mesut Ozil and Nicolas Pepe to pick the ball up just inside the Hammers’ half and drive forward – the duo made a combined four successful dribbles.
So whilst leaving Lacazette out was a bold call to make from Ljungberg, Aubameyang’s performance vindicated it.