After a few weeks of speculation and negotiations, Arsenal finally sealed the club-record signing of Gabonese forward, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, from Borussia Dortmund for £56 million on a long-term deal.
The former African Footballer of the Year enjoyed a wonderful goal-scoring spell at the Signal Iduna Park – he scored 98 goals in 144 appearances for Dortmund in the Bundesliga – but ultimately his performances were not enough to take Dortmund to loftier heights in a squad brimming with potential.
Luckily for Arsene Wenger and his Arsenal side, Aubameyang – the fourth Gabonese player to ply his trade in the league, after Daniel Cousin who played for Hull City, Didier Ndong of Watford (but featured for Sunderland last season), and Mario Lemina of Southampton – did not take long to showcase his undeniable ability to find the back of the net that took Dortmund closer to their ambitions of dethroning Bayern Munich from the top spot in Germany.
Reunited with his former team-mate and Armenian footballer, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, an example of the many international superstars that are currently in the Premier League, Aubameyang gave us that well-known, instinctive movement that allows him to drift off defenders and find space between the defensive lines.
Albeit he was in an offside position, that telepathic understanding was there for all to see. With a swift movement inside and a wonderful weight of pass, Mkhitaryan found Aubameyang. Aubameyang took a glance, looked down, and with that finishing ability that made him a stellar performer in the Bundesliga, calmly dinked the ball over the hapless Jordan Pickford.
After 37 minutes, he was off the mark, scoring the fourth goal in a 5-1 humbling of a very disappointing Everton team.
The league has been blessed with the talents of household names such as Alexis Sanchez and Eden Hazard, and amongst these, a few of the big-name players that were brought in during the summer transfer window from Europe’s top leagues have not lived up to expectations so far.
Tiemoue Bakayoko has struggled to display that midfield dominance that made him a first team regular at AS Monaco and Alexandre Lacazette, who was Arsenal’s previous record transfer at £52 million, has been underwhelming in an Arsenal jersey.
However, there have been instant impacts from others. Mohamed Salah has become Liverpool’s first 20-goals-a-season player since Luis Suarez and Ederson has been the perfect fit for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City master plan.
It is an exciting time for the Premier League once again.
And as much as Arsenal’s defensive issues have been well documented, it is almost impossible to ignore the attacking quality that Wenger now has at his disposal.
Aubameyang would be excited, and rightly so, at the prospect of playing in a team that not only boasts the qualities of Mkhitaryan, but of German international Mesut Özil, one of the most creative forces in the league, if not in world football.
There is also the potential striking partnership that could be created between Aubameyang and Lacazette, Wenger stating that somewhere, somehow, all these creative options can fit in one starting line-up.
Aubameyang, however, was used at Dortmund as the central, lone striker, so many believe that he has been brought in to replace Lacazette, who has not had the impact that Wenger may have been hoping for when he signed from Olympique Lyonnais.
To have strikers of the pedigree of an Aubameyang or a Lacazette in the Premier League adds to the already impressive list of goal scorers that need no second mention: Harry Kane, Sergio Agüero, Romelu Lukaku, Alvaro Morata. They all add to the talent on show in their own way.
Kane has the ability to score from audacious positions around the penalty area. Agüero seems to always be in the right place at the right time. Lukaku uses his pace and power in order to create opportunities for him and his team mates. Morata is a team player who allows players to run off of him.
It is a wonderful array of strikers that Aubameyang has rightfully joined.
After following in the footsteps of his half-brothers, Catilina and Willy, Aubameyang began his club career at AC Milan, where he endured a frustrating time as he was sent out on loan more times than he would have liked, and never made a senior appearance. He then joined Saint-Etienne in 2011, where he slowly revived his career, gaining confidence in his ability to be a predatory striker.
He was signed by Jurgen Klopp in the summer of 2013 after scoring 19 Ligue 1 goals in the previous campaign (joint second behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who scored 30 goals that season). He scored a hat-trick on his debut against Augsburg in a 4-0 win, and he has been menacing opposition defences with his exceptional speed ever since.
Aubameyang just adds to the quality on display, and in potentially his last big move (he turns 29 in June) he will be determined to water down any lingering doubts about his ability. Hitting the ground running was the first step; keeping a consistent run of form going will be important.
Time will tell if Aubameyang will have the impact that many may be anticipating.