There are two statistics that define Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Firstly, no Premier League player missed more ‘big chances’ in 2018/19.
More importantly, no Premier League player scored more goals in 2018/19.
He’s been this way for the majority of his career — the wasteful/clinical (delete as applicable) poacher with pace to burn.
After joining Saint-Etienne permanently in 2011, he frustrated fans with his errant finishing one moment, just to delight them with his expert precision the next.
This continued at Borussia Dortmund, where he plundered 141 goals from just 213 games, and still left memories of squandered chances.
Arsenal fans will remember his glaring miss against Chelsea back in August that flawed Matteo Guendouzi, such was the young Frenchman’s disbelief.
So, Aubameyang misses plenty of chances.
Does it matter? Absolutely not.
Great strikers from the past – Alan Shearer, Gary Lineker, and co – will tell you how important it is for a striker to remain unfazed after missing a chance.
They advise all poachers to put it out of their mind and score the next one, which Aubameyang invariably does.
He is not entirely unique in this sense.
Andy Cole was known for requiring several chances, but only Wayne Rooney and Shearer have scored more Premier League goals.
A more modern equivalent would be Edinson Cavani, who critics accuse of lacking predatory instincts.
The Uruguayan has scored 25+ goals (all competitions) in each of his last eight seasons.
Missing chances is a minuscule problem compared to a lack of chances altogether.
The reason Fernando Torres’ form at Chelsea was such a concern was his lack of confidence meant he shied away from shooting opportunities and threatening runs.
Aubameyang’s greatest attribute is his self-belief.
The Gabon international’s ability to generate such a volume of chances – be it through unmatched pace, intelligent movement, or quick reactions – makes him the envy of hungry goalscorers everywhere.
Last season, Mohamed Salah broke the record for most goals in a 38-game Premier League campaign.
He also missed more ‘big chances’ than anyone else.
Sergio Aguero achieved the same double in 2014/15.
The point is, ‘big chances missed’ is sometimes an indicator of a forward in excellent form, given the value of goalscoring opportunities — the more, the better.
We often think of clinical strikers as players who only need one chance to score.
While the benefits of such a marksman are obvious, perhaps we should also consider an alternate definition.
Given there is not a finite number of chances available, perhaps strike rate compared to time is more appropriate.
In this regard, Aubameyang edges out his fellow Golden Boot winners.
The 29-year-old started 30 league games, compared to Mane’s 35 and Salah’s 37.
Aubameyang played 2,733 minutes over the course of the campaign, 353 minutes fewer than Mane and 529 fewer than Salah.
Naturally, the Gunners’ top scorer has a superior strike rate:
- Aubameyang, 124.2 minutes per goal
- Mane, 140.3 minutes per goal
- Salah, 148.3 minute per goal
There is plenty to be said for scoring in a worse team too.
Liverpool ended the season 27 points ahead of Arsenal, scoring 89 goals to the Gunners’ 73.
Aubameyang deserves credit for matching Mane and Salah, despite the obvious supremacy of Jurgen Klopp’s side.
Not only that, he was forced to play wide in a quarter of his games to accommodate Alexandre Lacazette, with whom he shares an excellent understanding.
We should not forget the incident at the Emirates, when a Spurs fan threw a banana skin at Aubameyang following the Gabonese forward’s goal.
His reaction to the episode – which the court ruled had a ‘racial element’ – was admirably restrained.
Aubameyang’s first full Premier League season has been a tremendous success.
And if the club are to construct a new winning identity in the wake of Arsene Wenger’s succession, a free-scoring No14 must surely be the focal point once more.