Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang seems all set to leave Arsenal to make a transfer to FC Barcelona. Aubameyang’s reputation has been muddied by his recent loss of form but his legacy at Arsenal is cemented and means something much deeper;
In football it’s easy to take things for granted. When you witness a special talent perform on a weekly basis you almost get numb to it. One can even begin to think this special skill set gained from endless hours of practice is common and must be easily replaceable. As the saying goes “You never realise the value of something until it’s gone.”
From the moment RVP left/was forced out (depends on what you read) Arsenal entered a position drought as horrible as any in the Emirates era. We just didn’t have a prolific striker. The system lacked someone to play to and thus Wenger’s wonderful build-up usually ended in frustration in the final 1/3rd. For years I saw Wenger desperately throw just about anything at the canvas to try and solve this issue;
-Walcott’s stint as #9
-The purchase of Olivier Giroud/Lukas Podolski
– The free transfer of Yaya Sanogo
– The purchase of Danny Welbeck
– The failed integration of Chuba Akpom
– The purchase of Lucas Perez
– The long-shot transfer of Takuma Asano
-The first 3 months of the Lacazette transfer
For what felt like an eternity we did not have a #9 who struck fear into the hearts of defenders. This period is also noted by rival fans calling us “toothless” and “an easy out”. It was painfully frustrating as a fan. By the time we bought Aubameyang in January 2018, it felt like a lifetime since the RVP era.
Bottled title challenge after title challenge, Giroud’s prolonged goal droughts and PTSD scars of Welbeck’s attempted chip over Neuer were still fresh. I had lost all faith in our teams’ strikers and after years of Benzema or Higuain links going nowhere I was open to the idea RVP would be the last great finisher I saw don the Arsenal red and white.
A Rain Of Goals
It’s hard to describe the first few months after we bought Aubameyang. It had been years since I actively expected our striker to score weekly. I accepted Welbeck and Giroud’s lack of production in the name of “elevated team play” but that was just Wenger sith mind control as he navigated a difficult situation. A striker is supposed to score goals and we finally had one. Aubameyang hit the ground running so well it helped gloss over how disrespectful Sanchez exit out the club was. There was no time to be bitter. Only to appreciate a pure finisher #9 back at the club.
Aubameyang’s first goal vs Everton was all I needed to see. A stealth run between CB’s followed by a lovely chip over England’s #1 at the time. It was stunning how Auba made it look so easy but that’s what specialists do. They make super difficult things look like a basic chore. Early on you could see the team realise this fact and play towards it. We started attacking with more intensity as we had someone to build every attack towards. Aubameyang’s middle presence demanded attention which freed up the wings while our midfielders free from the scoring burden were able to focus on dictating play. Wengerball always had a certain beauty to it but this period saw a focus in build-up we had not seen in a while.
Aubameyang’s greatest gift was his embrace of the club’s iconic number. He played with a smile and joy that hid the burden. The last days of Walcott were painful, injuries had robbed him of his special traits yet he was still expected to bare that number weekly. Towards the end his lack of form plus jeers from fans with high expectations for their teenage prodigy began to weigh on him and he played often looking tired of the burden. Aubameyang playing with a wide smile weekly washed away those images. He turned the perception back from a burden to an honour with how he openly embraced the challenge of wearing this legacy number and tried his best to live up to it. As #14 becomes free again I hope the next star can bear such a heavy burden with the grace and smile Aubameyang did.