Is it the end for captain Aubameyang at Arsenal? No goals in SIX and snubbed for contract rebel Nketiah before a woeful miss at Everton… Neville believes his relationship with boss Arteta has turned ‘sour’, and the club want £60m Calvert-Lewin
- Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang missed golden chance in stoppage time at Everton
- The Arsenal captain has scored just four goals in 14 Premier League games
- The Gabon striker was also wasteful against Newcastle and Watford this season
- Arsenal could now look to move past Aubameyang to continue squad overhaul
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s glaring miss at Everton on Monday evening pretty much summed up his Arsenal career ever since leading them to FA Cup glory in August 2020.
His slight loss of pace and general goal threat has contributed to a blunt Arsenal attacking force over the last 16 months, and it was no more evident than when he was introduced with five minutes to go at Goodison Park.
A pass from Eddie Nketiah – who had been brought on before him despite not having a league goal to his name this season and having rejected two contract extension offers from the club recently – was dummied by Gabriel Magalhaes and found Aubameyang in space in the box in stoppage time.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s glaring miss at Everton summed up his recent Arsenal career
But the Gabonese completely fluffed his lines, dragging the ball comfortably wide of Jordan Pickford’s far post in stoppage time. Gabriel and Nketiah slumped to their knees as the Gunners’ last chance to salvage a 2-2 draw against a team who had not won in eight games went begging.
But Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville saw bigger picture issues regarding a striker who has scored just four Premier League goals in 14 appearances this season.
‘I think there’ll be a problem with Aubameyang after this. I don’t think he’ll like the idea of Nketiah coming on or being subbed full stop,’ Neville said.
‘There’s always a little bit of a bug between [Mikel] Arteta and Aubameyang, I know he’s the captain but he leaves him out and it feels like something a bit awkward.
‘It’s going to cause a problem and I bet if he could get a bit of money for him and get someone else they would. And I bet if Aubameyang could he would move on as well because it could turn a little sour.’
The Gunners captain has scored just four Premier League goals in 14 appearances this season
Eddie Nketiah – out of contract in June – was brought on ahead of Aubameyang at Everton
That ‘bug’ Neville referred to appeared to reached a boiling point last season when Aubameyang was dropped for disciplinary reasons for the north London derby, but Gunners boss Mikel Arteta has always stopped short of claiming any sort of rift.
It was only a few days ago Arteta came out and denied a rift between him and the Gabon international – who he dropped at Everton amid his poor form – after taking him off for Nketiah with Arsenal 3-2 down at Manchester United in midweek.
That substitution was not the first time Arteta had replaced Aubameyang with Arsenal needing a goal, with last season’s Europa League semi-final second leg against Villarreal coming to mind, and that after he had just hit the post.
But nor was the miss against Everton the extent of Aubameyang’s profligacy in the last few months, a significant factor in his failure to net in his last six top-flight games.
Mikel Arteta only gave Aubameyang five minutes at Everton but denied a rift exists last week
Aubameyang has missed several chances this season, not least against Newcastle (above)
Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka managed to dig the Gunners out of a potential hole by scoring against Newcastle, a game which saw their captain incredibly miss from just a couple of yards out with the goal gaping.
Emile Smith Rowe was Arsenal’s saviour in their previous home game against Watford, when Aubameyang’s poor touch in front of goal led to an offside Saka having to stick the ball away and then see his strike chalked off by VAR.
The 32-year-old then went on to see a penalty saved by Ben Foster, and then in the second half appeared to rob Martin Odegaard of a second Gunners goal, poking home the Norwegian’s goalbound effort when he was himself in an offside position.
It was a sign of eagerness – and perhaps desperation – to score, but now it is undoubtedly the latter which applies and has seemingly made him lose confidence in front of goal.
The downturn in his relentless goalscoring form – which saw him net 31 and 29 goals across all competitions respectively in his first two full seasons at Emirates Stadium – appeared to begin last season.
He also missed a penalty against Watford after his spot kick was saved by Ben Foster
He then robbed Martin Odegaard of a goal by prodding home when in an offside position
The former Borussia Dortmund striker netted just three Premier League goals in the 2020 part of last season, and would only go on to add another seven between January and May this year.
There were, however, mitigating circumstances at least in 2020-21. Arsenal played extremely poorly between October and Boxing Day last year and at one stage were sat as low as 15th in the table.
A lack of creativity was among their primary concerns during that torrid run of form, with Aubameyang hardly seeing a sight of goal because of the lack of service from the options around him and his position on the left-hand side of the front three.
Then at the start of this year he missed matches due to health issues with his mother back home, and once it appeared he was on the cusp of hitting some form, he contracted malaria, which saw him lose four kilograms after being hospitalised.
Yet there are a lack of similar excuses for his poor form this season, with just some of the chances he has missed this term detailed above.
Moreover, despite not playing the most free-flowing football, the Gunners are certainly more creative than they were 12 months ago, and the ball is finding the Gabon striker in good positions.
But now a striker who Arsenal fans – despite doubts over his credentials as a captain – for a few years believed only requires one chance to make an impact, now looks incapable of contributing in the goals scored column for the club.
As Opta have detailed, he set incredibly high standards following his £58million move from the Bundesliga in January 2018, scoring 20 goals in his first 30 Premier League games.
He managed the same number of goals from his next 30, but the following set saw his average drop to one goal every two games, which while representing a fall sparked no real cause for concern.
His Arsenal career, some fear, could now be heading in the same direction as Mesut Ozil’s
However, he has scored just 13 goals from his next 38 top-flight games, at a time when Arteta’s lack of alternatives have been equally as frustrating as the main man himself.
The overwhelming issue however is that there is no in-between when it comes to Aubameyang. If he scores, they are often vital goals which see Arsenal through critical stages of matches.
But if he fails to find the net, he is for the most part otherwise anonymous – just as he was at Liverpool and United this term – appearing unable to link play or hold the ball up and bring team-mates into the game.
Nevertheless, it would seem unfair to some to paint him with the same brush as Mesut Ozil, a former Gunners star whose numbers also dramatically nosedived after signing a £350,000-per-week deal, before being frozen out by Arteta.
The Gabon star spoke of creating a legacy when he signed his own £350,000-per-week contract last year, yet any chance of reaching that goal now rely on Aubameyang dramatically turning his form around, and quickly.
However, the more likely scenario is that Arsenal – just as they did with Ozil nearly 12 months ago – will look to replace Aubameyang in the summer, even if he is not frozen out like the former Germany international.
Sportsmail understands the Gunners are plotting a summer move for Everton forward Dominic Calvert-Lewin despite his probable £60m price tag, while other reports suggest they retain an interest in Lille forward Jonathan David.
Fiorentina star Dusan Vlahovic has also been linked, and with Alexandre Lacazette and Nketiah also set to depart for free in the summer, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that more than one forward joins the club.
A striker always appeared necessary to continue rebuilding the squad following their major overhaul in the summer, when the likes of Aaron Ramsdale and Takehiro Tomiyasu were signed.
Aubameyang’s form may however have hastened their cause to put their plans into action.
Sportsmail understands Arsenal are plotting a summer move for Dominic Calvert-Lewin
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