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What if Aubameyang had stayed at Arsenal?
One of the things that I think will come up as the season ends is this hypothetical question, what if Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had stayed with Arsenal rather than leaving at the end of the January transfer window.
This is probably an exercise in futility and pain but one I still want to at least talk about a little because I thought that Arsenal were taking a big risk with sidelining him in December. These were my longer thoughts at the time but I do want to highlight one passage:
I have seen people say that Arsenal are better with out Aubameyang and I will come out and say I disagree. I don't want this to come across that I think Aubameyang is playing well, because he is not, but he remains probably the best of probably a bunch of mediocre choices. This will be expensive to fix. Let's just look through Arsenal's choices beyond Aubameyang.
First is Alexandre Lacazette. He is a player that looks like he can only give the team 50-60 minutes right now, I think his hold up play is overrated (his and Auba's xG Build up involvement numbers are the same at 11%), he is just an okay presser, he can't seem to take up positions inside the penalty spot and he is incredibly shot shy. Oh and he will be a free agent at the end of the year.
Next is Eddie Nketiah. Eddie seems like a good enough kid and someone who works hard and generally does fine in the minutes that he gets. I remain unconvinced that he is anything more than spot minutes person for a team that would like to finish in the top six. He also is at the end of his contract.
Lacazette and Nketiah have basically been at my expectations from above (maybe Nketiah was a bit better than expected giving Arsenal a different look) and haven't provided a ton on the attacking side.
Lacazette and Nketiah since Aubameyang left the club have done the following on a per 90 basis: 0.25 non-penalty goals, 0.3 assists, 3.1 shots, 0.9 shots on target, 18 pressures, 0.4 non-penalty xG, 0.12 xA, 0.8 progressive passes, and 3.2 progressive carries.
Aubameyang did the following for Barcelona on a per 90 basis: 0.96 non-penalty goals, 0.1 assists, 3.1 shots, 1.8 shots on target, 16.5 pressures, 0.6 non-penalty xG, 0.09 xA, 1.1 progressive passes, and 1.9 progressive carries.
Arsenal really could have used some of the 11 goals that Aubameyang has scored in Barcelona. I know fully that this is not how things work and that we can't automatically move the goals that one player scored to another team but in the fine margins of this season and how things have played out in Arsenal it is hard to not start asking what if.
We saw the ability of the team to score plenty with either Lacazette or Nketiah as the striker when other players were healthy but we also saw that the team certainly had stretches where the team could not score and maybe having a player with the track record of scoring goals.
It was a big risk for Arsenal to force Aubameyang from the club. Maybe it was the right choice for the long term but it was something that came with a big short term gamble and now that we can see the fine margins of the Premier League.