It’s hard to argue with the Arsenal forward’s record in the last 18 months, but could the prolific striker have done even better this season?
This year, for the first time since the trio of Dwight Yorke, Michael Owen and Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink all ended on 18 Premier League goals in 1998/99, three Premier League attackers have shared the Golden Boot.
The statisticians and historians had to wait 20 years for a repeat, with Liverpool pair of Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane scoring 22 goals, while Arsenal’s Pierre Emerick Aubameyang’s brace on the final day at Burnley – matching Mane’s output at Anfield against Wolverhampton Wanderers – saw him end level with the Reds’ dynamic duo.
It was no less than the Gabon frontman deserved after a campaign that saw him hit that tally in 36 games, with 30 being starts, at a scoring frequency of a goal every 124 minutes.
For a bit of context, Salah achieved the same haul having started 37 of Liverpool’s games at a rate of a goal every 148 minutes. Mane, on the other hand, started 35 matches and netted at a frequency of a goal every 140 minutes.
The Gabon international has now surpassed the 20-goal mark in his last four league campaigns too: 25 in 2015/16, 31 in 16/17 (he finished as the Bundesliga’s top scorer) and 23 in 17/18 (13 for Borussia Dortmund and 10 for the Gunners).
Even though 32 league goals in 18 months is an impressive record, can the forward truly look back on a job well done this season, or should he take some responsibility for Unai Emery’s side’s failure to end in the top four?
Maurizio Sarri’s Blues ended on 72 points, one above Spurs in fourth and two ahead of the Gunners. The Red Devils, meanwhile, ended on 66 points after tailing off in the last weeks of the season.
However, things could have turned out differently if Emery’s top striker hadn’t been so profligate during the campaign, and especially in some key games in the last few months of the campaign.
His series of misses in gameweek two cost Arsenal maximum points in a 3-2 defeat by Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, he missed a last-minute penalty in the North London Derby against Spurs in early March which ended 1-1, and failed to put away a huge opportunity in the penultimate game of the season at home to Brighton & Hove Albion. That match also ended 1-1.
With Spurs really struggling to get over the line in the league this season, and with a seemingly easy run of fixtures on paper, Aubameyang and co. could, and probably should, have ended the campaign in third place.
In total, Auba failed to put away 23 big chances this year. For context, again: Salah, Mane and Sergio Aguero – who netted 21 PL goals – missed 16, 11 and 10 respectively.
While the retort to this sort of narrative is that strikers, including the prolific ones, tend to miss opportunities from time to time. Nonetheless, it’s the ease with which Auba contrives to miss presentable chances that baffles. In some ways, these incidents capture the essence of Aubameyang, a prolific striker who nevertheless sometimes struggles to convert the easiest of chances.
The Golden Boot was shared by three Africans, but the Gabon international would have been the only man at the top of the mountain had he been more clinical.
However, it’s not too late for Aubameyang and Arsenal to salvage a disappointing campaign, with the upcoming Europa League final against Chelsea set to take place in just over a fortnight.
Success in Emery’s first year in charge was largely going to be dependent on the goals his strikers scored, and they’ve come up trumps for their manager.
Alexandre Lacazette scored 13 times in the league and has returned five goals in nine continental fixtures. Auba, by contrast, has netted a staggering eight strikes in 11 appearances on the continent – two behind Olivier Giroud having played two games fewer.
He shut up naysayers who believed he was nothing but a flat-track bully with a brace against Spurs in dominant 4-2 win at the Emirates Stadium in December.
His hat-trick in the aforementioned win against Valencia was brilliant too; especially given it came after the Gunners fell behind to an early Kevin Gameiro strike in the 11th minute, while Rodrigo narrowly missed the chance to send Los Ches 2-0 up and ahead on aggregate.
Last season, with Aubameyang ineligible, Arsene Wenger’s side struggled to score against Atletico Madrid – netting once in 180 minutes of football as they exited the competition in the semi-final by losing 2-1 on aggregate.
This time around, the prolific, and ironically wasteful, Gabon frontman came to the rescue in the final four to take the North London side into their first continental final since 2006, and at least 90 minutes away from returning where they feel they belong – the Champions League.
Don’t bet against Auba picking up another top scorer’s gong again in 12 months’ time, particularly if he can take one or two more of his big chances.