Can Aubameyang return to form for Arsenal in the 2021/22 season?

Can Aubameyang return to form for Arsenal in the 2021/22 season?

Arsenal have had a couple of seasons in transition, with Mikel Arteta in charge for the lion share of it. They will now be hoping to push on and challenge for the top six again. In order to do this, they will need their talisman Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to get back to their best.

After signing his new contract at the start of last season, the Gabon international has been less influential in matches. During his first two Premier League seasons, he scored 44 goals at a rate of one every 133.4 minutes. It was impressive consistency, which made it unsurprising that Arsenal decided to give him a lucrative new deal.

Last season, he scored only ten Premier League goals at a rate of one every 233.7 minutes. This is a huge drop off and there were times when he was taken off early in matches when Arsenal were chasing a goal. As club captain and previous attacking talisman, it was a huge surprise to see Aubameyang regress both in terms of goal-scoring and squad status.

It was his worst return in a league season since the 2010/11 campaign when he was breaking into the team at Saint-Etienne. For so long Aubameyang has guaranteed goals, but Arsenal fans will be fearing that he is starting to decline. There were times last season when he looked short of pace when running with an opposition defender. This suggests he is losing the physical attributes that have benefitted him for so long.

At the age of 32, that isn’t surprising. The more surprising development was that he wasn’t getting into goal-scoring positions as frequently. In the 2019/20 season, he averaged 2.6 shots per game. This dropped to 2 shots per game last season.

Looking closer at his expected goal (xG) numbers, he was far less clinical last season. This does suggest a drop in confidence due to his patchy goal-scoring form. Last season, he had a xG of 10.6, at an average of 0.41 xG per ninety minutes. He scored 10, so he was roughly scoring at the rate expected.

During the previous season, Aubameyang had an xG of 15.8. He averaged 0.45 xG per ninety minutes. The Gabon forward scored 22 times, therefore overperforming his xG by 6.2.

It is expected that players overperforming their xG by that amount won’t be able to sustain it. Since moving to England, Aubameyang has overperformed it in three of his four seasons, albeit 2019/20 was his biggest overperformance.

The raw numbers show that Aubameyang was still getting into goal-scoring positions at a similar rate. The main difference was that he was less clinical and that was evident when watching him last season. The player we have become accustomed to could pick up the ball on the left wing, before cutting inside and putting the ball in the opposite bottom corner. It was a finish that became his trademark, but we have seen it less and less as his confidence drained.

Arteta will be hoping that he can find his confidence again and return to the goal-scoring form he has shown for the last decade. Despite being 32, he remains one of the few players in the squad capable of world class form. Arsenal will need that if they are to challenge in the top six.

If he fails to return to that form and delivers a similar campaign to the 2020/21 season, the new contract given to him will be reflected on as a mistake. Arsenal have been here before with Mesut Ozil. They need Aubameyang to justify the new contract given to him.

Stats taken from Whoscored and fbref (powered by Statsbomb)