The striker could be captaining the Premier League leaders right now; instead, he’s a bench player on a struggling team with no strikers.
One wonders if Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is now a superstitious fellow.
At the Emirates, some supporters will tell you that the striker was disgraced by the ‘Arsenal captain’s curse’, while Chelsea supporters will tell you that his career at Stamford Bridge was doomed from the moment he put on the number 9 jersey
Whatever the truth, for the second winter window in a row, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang faces an uncertain future.
Around this time last year, Aubameyang was in the midst of a bitter divorce from Arsenal.
In just over a month, he went from captain to sidelined, joining Barcelona in early February just over five weeks after his armband was stripped for his “latest disciplinary offence”.
Now some pundits are already wondering if he will ever play for Chelsea again after starting and ending Thursday’s Premier League clash with Manchester City on the bench.
Aubameyang was brought in for the injured Raheem Sterling after just under five minutes of play. However, he was later substituted for himself midway through the second half.
During his 63 minutes on the pitch, he managed just 13 touches, only one of which came in the City box, and he failed to register a single shot.
Worse yet, former Chelsea striker Chris Sutton was among those who accused him of a lack of effort.
“Aubameyang seemed like he didn’t want to be here tonight,” he told BBC Sport. “I thought he was sad, hopeless and not giving enough.
“He seemed disinterested and I suspect Graham Potter is thinking, ‘Boy, he’s never going to play under me again!'”
In reality though, Aubameyang could even start against City in Sunday’s FA Cup third round clash at the Etihad.
Not that Chelsea have many other options.
Kai Havertz continues to flatter to cheat when playing up the middle (and everywhere else), while wingers Raheem Sterling and Christian Pulisic have just joined Armando Broja, the club’s only other orthodox center forward, in the treatment room.
There’s also the fact that Potter did his best to defend Aubameyang after his ineffective midweek outing.
The striker was visibly frustrated by his withdrawal but his manager insisted, “It was a normal reaction.
“He came on after a couple of minutes, he hadn’t played for a while and he gave us an absolute turnaround as Manchester City make you run a lot.”
“I thought he did everything he could for the team. He was just getting a little tired.”
Of course, even that doesn’t bode well.
Aubameyang could be forgiven for a lack of sharpness in matches, given how little playing time he’s seen in recent months, but he shouldn’t be tired. After all, it’s not like he’s exhausted from the World Cup.
The circumstances surrounding his current situation at Stamford Bridge may be very different to his acrimonious departure from the Emirates, but once again it appears that Aubameyang would benefit from another transfer in January.
However, Chelsea is in an awkward position. They’re not exactly well-stocked in the shock department, but there aren’t exactly many world-class No. 9s on the market right now.
Chelsea have, of course, already signed a striker, David Datro Fofana, since the winter window opened, but the Ivorian is not expected to break directly into the starting line-up.
As it stands, then, if Aubameyang were to leave, the under-pressure Potter would not have a senior centre-forward at his disposal, given that Borja is unlikely to play again this season.
Not an ideal situation for a manager in charge of a team that sits 10th in the Premier League standings having scored a paltry 20 goals in 17 games and won just one of their last eight games in all competitions.
Obviously, Aubameyang was meant to be the answer to the Blues’ goal woes, and the thing is, he could have been.
Chelsea may be taking a lot of flak for their recruiting strategy, and with good reason.
But we are also seeing a lot of revisionism in relation to the arrival of Aubameyang, with people like harry redknapp Y David Seaman stating he was doomed at Stamford Bridge.
However, that is simply not the case. At the time, the Aubameyang acquisition made sense, as recognized by several esteemed experts.
At just £10.3m ($12.4m), he looked like a shrewd signing. Even Mateo Kovacic publicly admitted that Aubameyang was precisely the type of “true striker and goalscorer that we were missing”.
Arsenal may have done well to dump him last January, but that doesn’t mean Chelsea were wrong to sign him over the summer.
Seaman suggested that he was saying that Barcelona were ready to let him go, but his reasoning was twofold: the arrival of Robert Lewandowski and his desperate need to balance the score.
Xavi was certainly not happy to see Aubameyang go.
Firstly, the fact that he had scored 11 times in 17 league games last season, including a brace in a 4-0 win against Real Madrid that lifted the entire club.
Secondly, for all his bad behavior at the end of his time at Arsenal, he carried himself impeccably at the Camp Nou.
“I feel bad because it helped us a lot.” Xavi admitted. “He is an example on and off the pitch, he made a big difference, just look at his numbers.
“As a person he is a jewel, always training with a smile on his face. It’s a shame because these are the players you want to have in your squad but it was a good opportunity for him and for the club as well”. .
“We needed to put the pieces of the puzzle together, we are all happy but I feel bad as a coach to lose a player like Aubameyang.
“He was an example for the whole club and for all the players.”
Of course, it’s impossible to miss the way Arteta’s Arsenal have benefited from Aubameyang’s departure. particularly in terms of putting the wardrobe together.
Contrary to what the Gabonese later claimed, he was the problem, not the solution.
However, as his brief stint in Spain underscored, the 33-year-old still had a lot to offer, on and off the pitch.
It was a gamble worth taking. And he might have been worth it if Aubameyang had had more time with Thomas Tuchel.
In fact, the main reason many felt Aubameyang could flourish again at Stamford Bridge was the presence of his former boss at Borussia Dortmund.
The striker enjoyed the most productive period of his career under the German manager, scoring 79 goals in 95 games during Tuchel’s tenure.
“Hopefully I can be as good again,” enthused Tuchel after Aubameyang’s transfer from Barca was confirmed on September 1.
“We know what we’re getting, he delivers goals, speed and work rate against the ball, so he’s a great package to bring to our group.”
Tuchel was sacked just six days after Aubameyang’s arrival, which is still an amazing decision.
Chelsea’s new owners had backed the manager with a record £250 million ($300 million) outlay during the summer transfer window, and even dumped Romelu Lukaku, the most expensive player in the club’s history. , at Tuchel’s behest, only to be dumped after just seven years. games.
Of course, it is worth remembering that despite his “sadness” over Tuchel’s abrupt dismissal, Aubameyang still managed to score three times in his first five appearances Potter, who also praised the striker for the way he handled the trauma he suffered during and after the armed robbery of his Barcelona home just before his transfer to Chelsea.
However, it quickly became clear that Aubameyang was not on board with Chelsea’s Potter project which, for now at least, is focused on rejuvenating its squad with young players who suit the Englishman’s style of play, as the January signings illustrate. de Fofana, Andrey Santos. and Benoit Badiashile.
Now he has 10 games and almost three months without scoring.
However, context, as always, is key. Aubemeyang hasn’t performed anywhere near his best, that’s for sure, but it’s not like he’s playing for a team that he scores freely.
No Chelsea player has scored more than four league goals so far this season. The service to the first line has been lousy.
Consider the fact that Aubameyang’s shooting accuracy through 16 games in all competitions (63.16) is better than Erling Haaland’s (61.11); the difference is the conversion rate (13.04%) to (31.76).
But that can mostly be attributed to the quality of the opportunities that come their way.
Aubameyang has only had five big chances in 16 games this season (Liverpool’s Darwin Nunez has missed 21 alone!), but he’s converted 40% of them, a similar hit rate to Kylian Mbappe and Robert Lewandowski (both 41.67%).
As former Chelsea striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink said: “It’s not like he became a bad player overnight.”
Aubameyang is only to blame for finding himself in this position, of course.
He admitted after signing a contract extension at Arsenal in 2020 that Mikel Arteta had convinced him to stay by saying he could “leave and go for trophies at other clubs” or “you can stay here and leave a legacy”.
You have completely sullied that legacy with your actions over the past year.
He betrayed a complete lack of leadership by leaving Arteta with no choice but to reluctantly show him the door of the Emirates.
It was not an easy decision for the Spaniard. Aubameyang had been an integral part of two FA Cup triumphs. They had formed a close bond. Their separation was painful.
“I feel very sad” Arteta admitted after the transfer of Aubameyang to Barcelona.
But their former captain added insult to injury by criticizing Arteta in a video leaked online, and then further angered the Arsenal faithful by taking part in a promotional video with all the tips ahead of a London derby with his former club in November in which he declared himself “blue”.
So despite Aubameyang’s bad luck, despite all the talk about unlucky timing, he found himself in a mess of his own making.
He could be leading the line of league leaders right now; instead, he is the reserve striker at a club with no suitable strikers.
Aubameyang, then, is not cursed. He is just the victim of his own bad decisions.
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