No Aubameyang? The pros and cons of Arsenal boss Arteta dropping star striker

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang - Arsenal

It couldn’t happen, could it?

Yet now, as Arsenal prepare to take on Burnley at Emirates Stadium on Sunday night, there are some suggesting that is exactly what Mikel Arteta should do.

However, at a time when the Gunners are struggling for goals, would that really be wise?

Goal takes a look at the pros and cons below…

Should Arteta opt to drop his captain on Sunday, it’s not like he would be leaving out a forward on top form.

Aubameyang has scored just twice in the Premier League so far this season, with his strike at Fulham on the opening weekend of the campaign the only one coming from open play. His only other top-flight goal came from the penalty spot during the 1-0 win at Manchester United.

So, there is certainly an argument for leaving Aubameyang out based on form in front of goal. After all, Alexandre Lacazette has scored more goals than the 31-year-old in the league this season, yet he has already been left out on several occasions.

Eddie Nketiah, meanwhile, is Arsenal’s top scorer this season with five goals, and he has only made one start, which came back in October when Arsenal beat Sheffield United 2-1.

So, dropping Aubameyang and starting Nketiah could be seen as a deserved reward for the youngster’s performances in the Europa League, a competition in which he has netted twice in the past fortnight.

It could also take Aubameyang out of the firing line, with the striker finding himself coming in for plenty of criticism in recent weeks, and not just for his lack of goals, but also his all-round game.

“You cannot have a situation where if a striker does not score, he contributes nothing,” said Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher this week. “Aubameyang should be stretching defences with his pace, leading the pressing game or assisting. Then, a goal drought would not be such an issue.”

Perhaps a short spell on the bench could be what Aubameyang needs to get him focused again.

Arsenal’s talisman failed to even muster a shot on target in the defeat at Spurs last weekend and has fired in just 20 efforts on goalthis season– which puts him joint-29th in the Premier League.

When you consider Harry Kane has had 41 shots since the start of the campaign, that shows you have much of a struggle it has been for the Gunners’ hitman this term.

In recent weeks, we have also seen a shift in tactic from Arteta’s side when they go forward, with the emphasis in attack now seemingly on getting balls into the penalty area from out wide.

Arsenal produced 44 crosses against Spurs last Sunday– the most by any Premier League team this season – and they sent in 33 againstWolvesthe previous week.

However, Aubameyang is not known for his aerial ability– as underlined by the fact he has scored just three headed goals since he arrived from Borussia Dortmund in 2018.

So, if Arteta is now going down the aerial route, perhaps it would be better to leave out the 31-year-old, and instead trust in a player like Lacazette, who would be better suited to attacking balls into the box.

The obvious downside of leaving out Aubameyang is that he is undoubtedly the best striker at Arsenal.

Yes, he is horribly out of form at present, but leaving him out would make the Gunners a weaker side at a time when they are already toiling in attack.

Even with this current drought, his goal tally speaks for itself. He has scored 56 goals in 96 Premier League games and that shouldn’t be forgotten just because he has lost his finishing touch in recent months.

“No one is undroppable,” Arteta said in midweek. “At the end of the day, we have to find the right players to win football matches. But we cannot forget what Auba has done for this club and what he has done in recent months, not years ago.

“Also, I see how he’s training and how he’s behaving, how much he wants to turn this situation around. When I see that type of hunger, it’s about supporting the player, as well as the status he has in the team because of the performances he has provided for this football club.”

The case for dropping Aubameyang would perhaps be stronger if there was another player banging the door down with his performances, but that really isn’t the case at the moment.

Lacazette has been struggling all season and while Nketiah has been scoring in the Europa League, he has not looked much of a threat when given a chance domestically.

Folarin Balogun, meanwhile, is still completely untested and throwing a teenage striker into the pressurised situation Arsenal currently find themselves in, risks doing the youngster more damage than good.

Dropping Aubameyang also risks upsetting the captain. And whilst that shouldn’t be a reason for not doing it, it must be taken into account.

Arteta and Aubameyang have a very close relationship. They get on very well and the Spaniard was a major reason why the Gabon international decided to stay in north London and sign his new contract in August.

Arsenal’s manager knows he needs Aubameyang if his side are going to be successful, so the last thing he wants to do is make a decision that unnecessarily angers his star forward.

“The main goalscorer of the club at the moment isn’t scoring, so my biggest concern is how to help him score because we need his goals,” Arteta admitted recently.

“How important Auba has been for this club in the last two years and how the goal sheet has been shared among the squad tells you his importance. He needs to be scoring goals if we want to be successful.”

Leaving Aubameyang out would also embolden Burnley on Sunday. Since arriving in England in 2018, he has scored more goals against the Clarets than any other top-flight side.

His record against Burnley currently stands at seven goals in just five games and there’s no doubt the visitors would much prefer to take on Arsenal at the Emirates without the skipper in the side.

Aubameyang has to start.

It’s true that he’s been well below par this season. His performances and goal tally have not been up to the standards we have come to expect.

However, Aubameyang remains Arsenal’s top striker by some distance and if Arteta’s men are to end this miserable run of form in the league – which has seen them lose six of their last nine games– they need him in attack.

It must be noted that Arsenal have created just 65 chances in the league this season – fewer than any of their rivals. So, it is no real surprise to see Aubameyang struggling for goals.

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