Mikel Arteta was unsurprised to have his use of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang questioned with the Arsenal attacker struggling to match his goalscoring prowess of previous seasons.
Aubameyang has primarily played from the left under Arteta, despite also proving adept as a central striker during his two and a half years at Emirates Stadium.
Since his Premier League debut in February 2018, only Mohamed Salah (60) has scored more than the Gabon international’s haul of 55.
Prior to the start of the 2020-21 campaign, Aubameyang averaged a top-flight goal every 128 minutes. This season, however, that has dipped to one goal every 450 minutes with the striker scoring one league goal in five games.
Asked if the solution to Aubameyang’s goalscoring troubles is to play him through the middle, Arteta responded: “Always the question when he doesn’t score is, ‘Why doesn’t he play as a nine?’ Then you move him to the nine it’s, ‘Why did you not keep him on the left because he has been so successful from the left?’ This will happen, I know.”
Aubameyang came in for criticism on social media for his display in Arsenal’s 1-0 loss to Manchester City last weekend, with footage of him laughing with former Borussia Dortmund team-mate Ilkay Gundogan after the final whistle not going down well either.
“The expectation for him is that he has to score a goal every game, so this comes with the nature of the big player that he is, what he’s done in the past and what people expect from him in the future,” Arteta said of the criticism.
“He needs to handle that and we are here to support him when difficult times are around him.”
According to Opta, Aubameyang is yet to have a ‘big chance’ in the Premier League this season; prior to the start of 2020-21 he averaged one every 90 minutes.
However, the 31-year-old came off the bench and scored the winner as Arsenal came from behind to defeat Rapid Vienna in the Europa League on Thursday.
“He needs to get in more goalscoring opportunities, he needs to get the ball more in the box to do what he needs to do,” said Arteta.
“It’s a different game obviously to play against some of the big teams we have played this season, we have already played five games out of seven against top opposition.
“I asked him before the game [on Thursday], to come on and win the game for us. He did it, I am happy.”