After the Leed’s United loss, when the dust had settled and it was clear Arsenal were finding themselves in a major rut, I put out a tweet saying Aubameyang had a real opportunity on his hands to take a step toward ‘legend’. That as a captain during a trying time, he had the chance and obligation to take it upon himself to galvanize the team and help push them out of this rut.
I can respect that Aubameyang does not naturally possess the characteristics some equate to quality leadership on the pitch. He’s not going to be Vieira or Keene getting in fights in the tunnel, nor even Tierney looking to scrap with a fire in his eyes. He’s not likely to be the one pissed off in training and having a go at teammates, calling them out to be better. His leadership often comes from putting his head down on the training ground and leading by example, through his performance.
I think it’s fair to say that some have questioned that hard work. Many in his career have pointed to his lifestyle, his extravagant purchases, and friendship with Lacazette that often features them laughing as evidence of a lackadaisical mentality.
It seems harsh in my eyes. The man enjoys his football and teammates, and it puts a smile on his face. Nothing wrong with that, right? However, there comes a time when teams need just a little bit more, and the armband weighs heavy on a leader’s arm. As captain, whether you enjoy the vocal aspect of leadership or not, the burden falls on you to spur your team forward through performance and vocally.
Six days after tweeting this, Arsenal put forward their performance against Wolverhampton. Another struggle. Again questions and concerns arose surrounding the team, and Aubameyang in particular.
Auba had the least touches in the match (23) and only 8 passes completed. Managing 5 shots but only an xG of .4 suggests the quality of the chances were low. To make matters worse, after the game, Joe Willock stepped up to face the media with a message of needing to bounce back and perform, not Aubameyang.
I wouldn’t consider it a strong moment for Arsenal or Aubameyang, although I commend Willock for taking on the responsibility. It comes off as skirting the less appealing aspect of being a captain, which flies in the face of the words Aubameyang spoke during his contract extension announcement.
Legacy. To become an Arenal legend. That’s why Aubameyang wanted to stay in north London.
Aubameyang has gotten out of the gates slow this season, although it’s hard to put it entirely on him. After all, he is a finisher who has scored 2 goals off an xG of 2.4. After seasons of clinical finishing and out performing the stats, it has eventually caught up to him and Arsenal. This season he is averaging an xG of only 0.24 per 90 minutes, the lowest of his career by a fair amount. The fault likely lies with an array of people. Aubameyang, Arteta, the tactics, the team was a whole.
Yet he is presented with another golden opportunity. With the North London Derby tomorrow, Aubameyang is presented with two opportunities to add to the legacy he wants to create. A performance against Spurs has the potential to write just about anyone’s name into Arsenal’s history books forever. The ability to put Arsenal back on track in a major way and get a win on the road in their new home is a bonus. Step forward, pull the armband on, and lead — now is his time.
The fans are watching. Rivals are watching. Teammates are watching. If it’s a legacy he wants, it’s a legacy he needs to build, and legacies are filled with legendary career tales like these.