Chelsea It must have been a fear that curse number 9 had struck again.
When Chelsea signed Pierre Emerick Aubameyang from Barcelona On deadline day last summer, he was brought on to replace a centre-forward who barely got the ball, let alone scored goals, in the Romelu Lukaku.
The Belgian striker, now on loan at Inter Milan, has struggled to fit in with Chelsea’s style of play and expressed his displeasure during an unauthorized interview with Sky Sport Italia.
That incident overshadowed Chelsea’s first home game of 2022High profile match vs Liverpool. Lukaku was dropped from the team as punishment by coach Thomas Tuchel, and while he issued a public apology, the damage was done.
Here we are 12 months later and it’s Aubameyang’s turn to be a talking point for the wrong reasons after Chelsea’s opening home game of the calendar year.
Aubameyang didn’t tell the media about his displeasure the way Lukaku did, but his concern was evident as he suffered the ignominy of being substituted by manager Graham Potter after 68 minutes coming on as a substitute during a 1-0 defeat by Manchester city.
When Aubameyang’s number was stopped by the fourth official, the 33-year-old shook his head in disbelief on more than one occasion and barely acknowledged Potter as he walked by to take his place in the dugout.
Aubameyang wouldn’t be the last player to react to this scenario in this way. It is one of the most embarrassing things for a soccer player. But she revealed his frustration.
Potter did his best to downplay the incident, saying, “The players want to stay on the field and influence the game. It’s a natural reaction.” What is beyond doubt, however, is Aubameyang’s form, and his lack of presence, which is a huge problem.
Previous Arsenal The captain went 10 matches without a goal for Chelsea. He has only found the net three times for the club. That race returned in October vs Crystal Palace And two matches against AC Milan.
Most disturbingly, he never seemed to end the drought. It’s not like he’s wasting one opportunity after another. During the time he was on the field against City, he scored no shots and had only one touch (out of a total of 14) in the opposition penalty area.
This was in line with his production in his eight scoreless matches in the Premier League. He collected just five efforts on goal in total during those matches with only two of those strikes on goal – one in the draw with Brentford and the other in the loss in Brighton.
Like Lukaku has shown in a Chelsea shirt, the additional problem with Aubameyang is that when he doesn’t score it’s hard to see what else he contributes. The veteran, who was released by Arsenal last January, is not involved in general play enough. This was highlighted when he handled the ball on eight occasions during the 1-0 defeat against Arsenal in November. This was the last time Potter called him in the first 11 games.
In the five games that followed, Armando Brujawho left the season with a knee injury, led the line twice and more clearly, Kai Havertz He was Potter’s preferred choice in the final three.
Potter was keen to highlight the important qualities Havertz brings to the role after scoring against him Bournemouth last week. The comments seemed significant regarding Aubameyang’s situation. He said: “At the age of nine, he (Havertz) gives you flexibility and variety in the game. He can enter but he can also threaten the defence, he can score. So I like him in this position.
“With the period we’ve been through, we’ve had to adapt some things. It’s nice to have that clarity (in position), but sometimes it’s not possible. Players are multi-faceted in their qualities so they can play in a few positions. Kai is one of these.
“I have to make a (team selection) decision based on what I think every day in training and Kai scores goals and plays for the German national team, and given his goal record there, it’s elite level. Whenever he plays there, he manages to score and also contributes to the team.”
Tuchel spoke about the reluctance of the Chelsea players to take the number 9 shirt because of all the players who had struggled with wearing it in the past. In addition to Lukaku, other top strikers who find him a liability include Fernando Torres, Alvaro Morata and Gonzalo Higuain.
Where do we go next the athlete…
It is to Aubameyang’s credit that he showed the confidence others lacked to take that number. Indeed after signing he declared: “I have unfinished business in the Premier League”.
Aubameyang will still get more opportunities to play this season despite Pique’s spell, but it looks increasingly likely that he will act as a replacement for Havertz. It would be difficult for him to accept that.
What happens from there is open to debate. Chelsea, who had been reluctant to buy it a few days before the deal was completed (they paid 11.5 million euros, with Marcos Alonso Going to Barcelona for free), gave him a two-year contract with the option of a further 12 months.
They have agreed to terms with Leipzig signs with Christopher Nkunku in summer. They added David Datro Fofana Those born this month are looking for other targets to reinforce the attack.
Chelsea’s lack of goals is one of the reasons for their 10th-place finish in the Premier League. They have scored just 20 goals in 17 games, which is the 12th best in the First Division. until you struggle Leeds United And Leicester City You have more.
In Chelsea’s and Aubameyang’s defence, the number of injury problems they have suffered this season has meant that their best line-up has rarely been on the pitch and has prevented any rhythm or understanding from developing. Raheem Sterling And Christian Pulisic He joined the list of absentees of the ten after leaving early against City with Mason Mount He suffers a blow in training the day before.
“It’s one of those things right now,” Potter said. “I’ve never experienced anything like this before, and I better not want to try it here. But it is what it is, I have to keep going.
“Obviously the expectation is where it is. You want to be here, have all your players available, have a fully fit squad, and be competitive. It’s frustrating for everyone at the moment.”
But no one is more frustrated with how things are going than Aubameyang.
(Top photo: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)