Following a busy January transfer window, John Dykes can’t hardly wait to see the lightning-quick Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in action for Arsenal this weekend.
It’s hardly surprising that Sunday night’s Liverpool – Spurs clash at Anfield is being held up as the stand-out fixture of the Premier League’s 26th round. Yet, thanks to January’s transfer activity, there’s another game that fascinates me in terms of its plotlines.
Arsenal entertain Everton in the small hours of Sunday morning (for fans in Asia) and it’s a game I’ll be staying up for if to see how two new signings fare and also for the prospect of seeing three of the fastest players in the Premier League turning on the after-burners at the Emirates.
The only incumbent in that pacey trio is Gunners fullback Hector Bellerin, reportedly the quickest player at the club and even quicker than Theo Walcott, who will be returning to North London with his new employer. Both players, however, will have some competition in the fast lane as the game could see a debut for Arsenal’s record signing, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, if he shakes off illness in time.
— FOX Sports Asia (@FOXSportsAsia) February 2, 2018
In truth, I am of course not that bothered about an imaginary footrace between any of the above. The two most obvious plotlines are, respectively: the damage an in-form Walcott (who already has two goals and an assist in his two appearances for Everton) might do to Arsenal who are still reeling from their defeat in Swansea; also, and perhaps of even more significance, what will Aubameyang bring to the party?
The Gabon international is without a doubt the most exciting overseas signing made by a Premier League club since Manchester United brought Paul Pogba back. Let’s not forget his last debut, for Borussia Dortmund, yielded a hat-trick against Augsburg, including a goal with his very first shot. They were three of the 141 goals he scored in just four and a half years in Dortmund.
So, @Aubameyang7 deal done. Your take? And who’s the happier out of @mbatshuayi and @_OlivierGiroud_ provided their deals are completed? All quiet on the @Mahrez22 front at the moment. Will it stay that way? #JDShow @FOXSportsAsia @mi_holland
— JohnDykes (@JohnDykesFC) January 31, 2018
Auba spoke about Thierry Henry this week and it’s tempting to say the striker could have had a similar impact on the club and the Premier League had he come to England sooner. Henry, however, joined a stronger Arsenal side than the one Auba is linking up with. He may now be part of a potentially-destructive attacking quartet also featuring Alexandre Lacazette, Mesut Ozil and Henrikh Mkhitaryan but the Gunners have problems elsewhere on the pitch.
Their away record has been abysmal (for a “Big Six” club) for some time now. The Gunners have taken 29 points from their last 25 Premier League away games and their recent travel sickness has seen them slip eight points off the pace needed for Champions League qualification.
? Here's the boss on @Aubameyang7…
“He’s a typical striker, with great pace and a good ratio of games played and goals scored. He has a good work-rate and is a team player”
— Arsenal FC (@Arsenal) February 2, 2018
Under Arsene Wenger, Arsenal have shown themselves to be tactically inflexible in away games, initially against their immediate rivals and more recently against anyone. If their front-foot game fails, they are left wide open defensively and teams like Swansea and Bournemouth before them knew that only too well.
Auba and Mkhitaryan were key components in Dortmund’s game plan which involved pressing to win possession then breaking with deadly pace and penetration. Their presence will allow Arsenal to switch from their wide-open tactical approach to a more cagy, counter-attacking game on away assignments and it will be fascinating to see just how they line up in their next such assignment, the North London Derby at Wembley.
For now, it’s a home game and the Gunners will start as favourites. Life has been complicated lately for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Now he has a chance once more to do what he does best: getting those fast-twitch muscles firing and keeping the goals flowing.