Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is loving life in Barcelona.
Since he arrived at the club towards the end of the January transfer window, the Gabon international has found the net nine times for his new team in 11 appearances across all competitions.
The 32-year-old has already won the hearts of the Camp Nou faithful, scoring a hattrick against Valencia and an El Clasico brace in Barcelona’s 4-0 demolition of Real Madrid.
But, Barcelona fans were not that enthusiastic when Barcelona announced his signing.
A history of indiscipline
His previous club, Arsenal, were desperate to offload him in January because Gunners boss Mikel Arteta banished him from the squad for disciplinary breach.
He didn’t play for Arsenal since December 6, when he had a five-minute cameo from the bench against Everton.
Disciplinary issues have been recurrent throughout Aubameyang’s career, but rarely did he let it reflect on his performance.
Prolific at all times
He emerged as one of the world’s most lethal strikers playing for Borussia Dortmund, and he kept up his goal-scoring prowess when he made a £56 million move to Arsenal in 2018.
He has scored 92 goals for Arsenal and was instrumental in their FA Cup win in 2020.
But, his goals began to dry up after penning a new Arsenal contract, which gave him a weekly paycheck of £350,000.
He only scored 22 goals in 54 appearances for Arsenal after signing the new deal, which is relatively poor given the astronomical standards he had set for himself.
Arteta’s demands affected his form
From the start of 2021/22, Mikel Arteta demanded more link-up duties from Aubameyang.
He wanted him to drop to deeper spaces and track back opposition attackers.
Aubameyang had some of his best performances for Arsenal playing on the left, but Arteta wanted someone with better dribbling and movement abilities to play as a winger.
So, Aubameyang shifted to the centre and started to lead the line.
Arteta wanted Aubameyang to create space for the wide players and run into the gaps opening up in the opposition defence.
This is a complex responsibility and Aubameyang wasn’t pretty good at it.
He specialized in running behind the line and put the ball into the net. It wasn’t that simple for him anymore.
After Aubameyang’s exclusion from the team, Arsenal have been more fluid in attack and have experienced a significant improvement in form.
Alexandre Lacazette now leads the line, and even though he hasn’t been much prolific, he has been able to facilitate the wingers.
Xavi using Auba’s strengths
At Barcelona, head coach Xavi Hernandez is using Aubameyang in a way that suits him better.
He intends to create attacking overloads with the front three and two free 8s surging forward from midfield.
Since there are two central midfielders in advanced positions to supply the ball forward, there is no need for Aubameyang to fall back and recycle the ball.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has proved that he is still a world-class striker under the right circumstances.
Barcelona would be happy to bring in a goal machine for free, while Arsenal would be relieved to chalk off Aubameyang’s huge wages from their books.
It was a win-win transfer for both parties involved.