The Princes and the PEA: who will take advantage of Auba’s absence?

It’s disappointing news that the club’s appeal against Pierre Emerick Aubameyang’s red card has failed and he will miss the next three matches.

I know I’m in a minority in thinking the ref’s original decision (yellow card) was correct after Auba’s wild tackle on the Crystal Palace midfielder Max Meyer at the weekend. There was no malice, just a combination of over eagerness and bad timing.

But what’s done is done.

Now, as Mikel Arteta says, we have to see the next three games as an opportunity for the understudies to our funky Gabon to step up and be counted.

Auba is our attacking king, which means there are several princes who would love to take his crown. Which of them do we think will thrive while the monarch is missing?



If Auba is the king, then Laca is the prince-who-once-was-king. His finishing and poaching instincts in and around the box have made him a consistent scorer since he arrived in N5, but his current dry spell makes the Sahara look like a jacuzzi. It’s likely that he will continue to be the central striker, which means his role will not significantly change while Auba’s out. But maybe there’ll be a psychological boost because he’ll know that (a) we’ll be relying on him even more without his strike partner and number one chum and (b) maybe Auba’s clinical record in front of goal has been intimidating Laca and this opportunity to be the main star all on his own might be just what he needs.

Summary: Cometh the hour, cometh the man. The Lion of Lyon will find those long-lost scoring boots at last.


I feel we’re still a long way from seeing the best of Pepe. He has shown glimpses of real class and we know he can finish. But his performances are also erratic and he tends to lose the ball more than one would like. Nevertheless, if he gets the game time this could be a chance to show he can make up for Auba’s absence.

Summary: I have a funny feeling Pepe is going to chip in two or three goals in the next few games if – and it’s a big IF – he gets the on-pitch minutes.


Obviously Ozil’s role is not directly affected by the lack of Aubameyang, but will he be encouraged to be more aggressive about getting on the scoresheet himself? He is surprisingly patchy in front of goal for a player with such sublime footballing gifts, but we have seen him score some lovely goals over the years.

Summary: Unlikely to be our saviour.


Aged just 18, Bukayo Saka has been one of the success stories of the season. He has shown energy and ability as a wide attacker, has filled in valiantly at left back when needed and even managed a couple of goals in the Europa League. On the face of it he could come in as a straight replacement for Aubameyang in the left forward role.

Summary: Not a shabby option by any means, but will he get the nod ahead of Martinelli?


For my money the young Brazilian is the most exciting prospect among the emerging talent at Arsenal. Although still raw (he’s also 18) he has shown hints that – if he continues to progress – he could develop into a Ronaldo/Van Persie type of player. He is brave, decisive and can score with both feet and with his head. If he is preferred on the left wing while Auba’s out he could do very well indeed.

Summary: Probably the fans’ favourite to start in place of Auba. If he does, expect him to do well.


Reiss Nelson seems further down the conversation surrounding our attacking options when compared with Martinelli, Saka, Pepe or even Nketieh. But there are rumours that Arteta sees something of a Raheem Sterling in him and he has impressed in his recent outings.

Summary: It wouldn’t be a total surprise (to me, anyway) if Nelson got a lot of game time in the coming fixtures.

In conclusion, I expect Lacazette to continue as central striker for the two up-coming league games (Sheffield United and Chelsea). I think Pepe will start on the right for those games with Martinelli on the left.

For the FA Cup tie away at Bournemouth I’m guessing Martinelli as central striker (a rest for Laca), with Nelson on the right and Saka on the left.

But no combination would surprise me as Arteta continues to figure out how to get the most out of his squad.

Who will emerge as our golden booted hero in the next week-and-a-bit? My money is on Lacazette, with a key supporting role from Pepe.



11 Responses to The Princes and the PEA: who will take advantage of Auba’s absence?

  1. GoonerB says:

    Thanks Rocky, still putting up great posts even when you have buggered orf abroad.

    Anyway it looks like Saka can be discounted for at least this game as it seems he will be covering the left full back role again.

    I think your suggestion that it will be Laca with 2 of the 3 of Martinelli, Pepe and Nelson flanking him will be correct. Hopefully Laca now finds his purple goal-scoring patch again. His work rate is certainly deserving of a run of goals, so fingers crossed. It could be that Martinelli could also play just behind Laca with Pepe and Nelson flanking at times, but that would only be when Ozil is not on the pitch.

    Anyway, in the longer term I think Arteta will be looking to develop a team that has a prolific number 9 but also boasts significant goal-scoring players in the wing forward / wide areas, and attacking central midfield areas, as has been the case with City. I look forward to watching this development and as you say now is the time for other players to show that they have the ability to chip in with regular goals.

  2. LBG says:

    No Eddie then, Rocky!
    He would become be my each way outsider, and I would have money on the nose for Martinelli and Laca.

  3. GoonerB says:

    Eddie is an interesting one LBG, and a player I hope really kicks on and makes it here. Looking at all our strikers, Eddie included, then predominantly I think you can play Laca and Auba together because Auba can operate off to the attacking left (a position he played for some time earlier in his career like Thierry did).

    Laca in comparison has played I believe as a number 10 type before moving to number 9, but either way that still leaves him being predominantly as a central forward and not a wide forward.

    Eddie seems similar to Laca in that he is a central orientated forward and isn’t schooled as an attacking wide forward. My Leeds fan mate said as much when he explained why Eddie didn’t get as much game time, because he was more a pure 9, and with Bamford there it was mostly either or between him and Eddie but not generally both together. Bamford got the nod because he has a phenomenal work-rate which was deemed more important for that team in that league right now.

    That means that for us we can have combinations where Auba can play as a sole number 9 or to the left of Laca or Eddie. However as a sole number 9 Eddie is number 3 in the pecking order, and as a 9 with Auba to the left he is number 2 in the pecking order. Auba is only missing for 3 games, and It makes me wonder how much playing time Eddie will see.

  4. allezkev says:

    Good post Rocky, there’s six days between Chelsea and Bournemouth FAC, so I reckon that Lacazette is likely to start all three matches.
    Saka and Martinelli on the left flank tomorrow?
    Eddie as supersub?
    I’m looking forward to seeing how the boys rise to occasion without their talisman leading the line.

  5. LBG says:

    At last someone who talks about a ” pure No9!!
    I dont want wide attacking players up front, I want two pure No 9s playing close together. Radford and Kennedy.
    With Aubang out. Laca and Martinelli. Martinelli and Eddie.

  6. At some time during the next three weeks or so I expect to see: Pepe, Martinelli & Eddie on the pitch together. Any one of them could be the ‘No 9’, my preference being Gabby, and the RvP comparison is not hyperbole.

  7. RC78 says:

    I think Martinelli will play on the left wing, Laca in the middle and Pepe on the right

    I d be keen to see a 4231 with
    Torreira, Xhaka – Pepe, Laca, Saka – Martinelli with Laca playing behind Martinelli… I think this would work out well.

  8. Does anyone fancy writing the prematch for tomorrow?

  9. LB says:

    Another superb read Rocky. It has to be as you anticipate: Lacazette with Martinelli and Pepe on either side.

  10. Morning all

    We have a New Post ………….

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