Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s lucrative new contract at Arsenal is not responsible for the striker’s form “falling off a cliff”, says Alan Smith. The Gunners made the agreeing of fresh terms with their talismanic captain a top priority over the summer.
Eventually, having added another FA Cup and Community Shield to their trophy cabinet, the north London outfit got the deal they were hoping for.
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Aubameyang is now tied down until 2023, with Arsenal looking for him to spearhead more quests for major silverware. The Gabon international has, however, found himself stuck in a rut this season, with just two Premier League efforts forming part of a four-goal haul across all competitions.
The former Arsenal striker told Sky Sports of Aubameyang: “He’s only human. He comes across as a really happy guy, whose confidence would be difficult to knock. He has great confidence in his ability. But you can see he has been affected by his overall game. He’s been lacklustre.
“In an effort to try and change things, they’ve put him through the middle. I don’t think he’s necessarily always suited to playing through the middle; when the team is functioning properly, and he’s coming in from the left, he can find space easier from that position. But I can see why they’d try through the middle because they’re trying everything at the moment.
“Some people point to him signing his new bumper contract and his form falling off the edge of a cliff, but I’d be reluctant to say that has been an influence. He does strike me as someone who lives for goals, but I’d be surprised if he’s eased off because he’s signed his new contract.
“Wherever Arsenal are on the pitch, they always make sure that should they lose the ball, they are not exposed. They’ve always got that in mind. Arteta works quite hard on that in training. And yes, it’s taken away some of that joie de vivre, if you like, that Arsenal has always been associated with going forward.”
Aubameyang is not the only Gunners star to be struggling for a spark either, with Mikel Arteta’s collection of attacking weapons all failing to fire at present. Smith added: “Alexandre Lacazette has been suffering, Willian hasn’t reproduced his Chelsea form, Nicolas Pepe is hot and cold. It has been a combination of things.
“Aubameyang and Lacazette are great pals off the pitch. He’s looked laboured, almost looked not fit enough, but I’ve been through a spell like that, and when confidence is low you can’t run like you do when you’re playing well. “And when you’re not scoring goals it does have an effect on your physical output.”
Arsenal will be in Europa League action on Thursday against Rapid Vienna, having made positive progress through their continental campaign to this point, while a north London derby date with arch-rivals Tottenham awaits them on Sunday.