Is There An Aubameyang Problem? Brighton Report & Ratings

Auba and out?

Two consecutive wins in the league. A clean sheet. Further encouraging performances from our young players… all in all this was as a good a trip to the seaside as I can remember since the day I won £2.43 on the Penny Falls.

A Lacazette goal (less than a minute after he came on as a substitute) turned out to be the only score in the game as we beat Brighton and Hove Albion at the Amex stadium.

We may not have actually built momentum just yet, but we have surveyed the ground and got the architect’s drawings, so we can see that momentum building is on the way.

But the game raised (and possibly answered) one or two questions about our personnel.

Let’s start with the positives:

Bukayo Saka demonstrated again that he is fast becoming the most important player in our current squad. He plays with a maturity beyond his years and, if I think back to his early outings last season when, let’s remember, we were hugely impressed with him, it’s clear that his decision making and all-round game play have improved exponentially.

Pablo Mari: in my last match report I got my wires crossed and called him a Brazilian when, in fact, he is Spanish (as I’m sure you all know). But in the last two games he has played with an un-showy confidence that bodes well for his future with us as first-choice back-up to Gabriel.

Emile Smith Rowe: so modest he doesn’t even bother with a hyphen. I’m not someone who watches our reserve games or our pre-season friendlies so I had seen little of ESR until recently. But against the Seagulls he picked up where he left off against Chelsea, showing a quickness of thought, touch and movement that puts some of his senior colleagues to shame (yes Willian, I’m looking at you).

Bernd Leno: I had my reservations about whether we’d kept the right stopper when we let Martinez go in the summer and kept our big German. After his penalty save against Chelsea and another excellent game against Brighton those doubts are assuaged. He made a couple of top quality stops in this win. Given how hard Brighton were to break down even at 0-0, imagine how tough it would have been if one of those chances has gone in and given them a lead to defend. Leno made sure that never happened.

Now to the negatives:

Mohammed Elneny: in what was otherwise a reasonably tidy outing, Mo nevertheless had two or three moments of madness that almost cost us. If he’s going to play that defensive midfield role he needs to cut those mistakes out of his game. He had a couple of similar loose moments against Chelsea and one day soon these sorts of blunders will cost us dearly.

Finally, I come to Aubameyang. Here’s the question that’s been bumbling around in my brain, rolling from one side of my head to the other, enjoying the sheer emptiness of the space: did our poor performances as a team this season sink Auba’s form, or did Auba’s form help sink our performances as a team?

I’m inclined to the former explanation: namely that our general dysfunctionality and lack of any attacking central midfield/number 10 options meant we have been so crap at chance creation that our poor Gabonese star had had no real chance to shine.

But the angst of our long goal-less and chance-less run seems to have knocked the stuffing out of Auba and he is half the player he was at the end of last season.

Against Brighton I have little doubt that if we had started with exactly the same line-up that walked out to face Chelsea we would have been ahead in the first half and might well have won comfortably.

Lacazette is much better as a central striker in the system we have been employing for the last two games.  We have mostly played without a central attacking midfielder this season (Willian, Ceballos and Laca himself have all been tried in this role with varying degrees of ineffectualness). But Smith Rowe is an actual CAM and his presence changes everything. He can hold up the ball and he looks for a striker to play off. With the best will in the world, that’s not the role to which Auba is suited. Lacazette is much better suited to it because he holds up the ball better, is more committed and, frankly, works harder.

Before you all jump on me, I am not writing off Aubameyang. I love him. He brought me such joy just a few months ago when he won the FA Cup for us. But that was in a team that sat deep and hit (better equipped) opponents on the break. It suited him.

I think Auba can still work wonders for us this season, particularly in big games. But if I were the boss I would rest him for games like Brighton and West Brom, where we are likely to be facing the low bus. Right now, for me, he is not in our optimal starting eleven (although I know that, as captain, he is likely to start more often than not).

Against Brighton Auba did OK. He was really unlucky not to score when he got on the end of a Saka cross only for the ball to fly off the knee of the Brighton ‘keeper, Sanchez.

But he did not conduct the press with the vigour that Lacazette does; he did not chase down their goalkeeper with the determination of Martinelli; and his touch and passing left a lot to be desired.

He is a man out of form who maybe needs a rest.

But that’s enough about Auba. Here are a few overall thoughts about the game – take them or leave them: I’m no tactician and, as Roy Walker always encouraged us in Catchphrase, I can only “say what I see.”

Brighton are struggling this season but they knocked the ball around really well, were confident in possession and in playing out from the back and seemed to be trying hard for each other and their manager. It made me think two things: one, they’re staying up; and two, the overall quality of play in the Premier League is now ludicrously high. 

This game (as Redders mentioned in the comments) had a sense of “after the Lord Mayor’s show” about it: after the dynamic win against Chelsea it was something of a crash back down to earth. But that’s not completely surprising:  the West Londoners wanted to out-play us and consequently gave us space in which to play; the East Sussexers* were less ambitious and dropped 11 men behind the ball whenever we had possession, making it harder to get any fluidity to our play.

Nevertheless, this formation of four at the back, two holding midfielders, a CAM (Smith Rowe), two wide attacking midfielders and a central striker looks like our best bet for further success this year.

Next up it’s Fat Sam the Walrus Man, smarting from a 0-5 thrashing at the hands of Leeds United. 

We can guarantee two things: one, Sam will spend the next few days on tightening up his defence, so there’s no chance of us achieving a similar result; two, he’ll tell his players that Arsenal “don’t like it up ‘em”, so brace yourself for some heavy tackles and all-round crappy behaviour from the West Brom players.

Still, there’s enough about us now to feel a degree of confidence that we can come away with the points.


Player Ratings

Leno – 8

Some very good stops when it was 0-0. But that bit of ball-juggling on his own six yard line gave this observer palpitations.

Bellerin – 7

Not everyone in AA comments was happy with Hector, but I thought he did pretty well.

Holding – 7

One misplaced pass put us in danger, but other than that Big Rob was committed and solid and even set up the move that led to our winner.

Mari – 7

I’m liking him. No fuss, but exudes a confidence in his own ability and never hides from receiving the ball.

Tierney – 7

Not as dominant as in the Chelsea game, but a typically committed outing. He managed to get to the byline a couple of times to get crosses in.

Elneny – 6

He’s tidy, he makes himself available at the right times, but in the last two games he has had several kamikaze moments. He needs to cut it out because it will cost us.

Xhaka – 7

A decent follow-up to his good outing against Chelsea. 

Saka – 8 (MoTM)

Most of our best moments in this game came from Bukayo. His excellent (and strong) run set up our winner for Lacazette. He was unlucky not to have another assist after putting Aubameyang in with a great chance. The future of Arsenal. The only criticism is that he took three corners all of which hit the first defender.

Martinelli – 6.5

The packed ranks of Brighton defenders made it hard for Gabriel to have the same impact as he did against Chelsea, but he worked hard and had some good moments.

Smith Rowe – 7.5

I’m liking this lad more and more. His touch and speed of thought and play are exceptional. He’s only going to get better and should now be considered a first team automatic choice expect when he needs to be rested to avoid over-playing.

Aubameyang – 5.5

His touch and passing were off, his half-hearted efforts to close down the opposition goalie and defenders compare badly with those of Martinelli and he can’t hold up the ball like Lacazette. He is still very important for Arsenal but Arteta needs to figure out a better way to use him.


Lacazette – 8

What more can you ask for? Came on and scored the winner inside less than half a minute with a clever and skillful finish. Resumed his impressive work rate from the Chelsea game.

Ceballos – 6

Came on in the 81st minute. Ran around a bit.

Maitland-Niles – 6.5

Only got one minute plus stoppage time, but did some decent time-wasting hold-up play in the Brighton corner.

  • Did you know that “Sussex” derives from “South Saxons”? Likewise Essex is “East Saxons”, Wessex is “West Saxons” and Middlesex is “Middle Saxons”. But it does beg the question: whatever happened to the North Saxons? Why don’t we have a place called Nossex?


26 Responses to Is There An Aubameyang Problem? Brighton Report & Ratings

  1. RockyLives says:

    You asked at the end of the last post why I thought Martinelli was better suited than Auba to succeed against ‘park the bus’ teams.

    I feel Martinelli is a more versatile player – he can head (so he’s a danger in the box), his passing is better than Auba’s both in terms of accuracy and range and he makes more varied runs, often interchanging with team-mates with quick one-twos.

    Auba is lethal when racing towards goal for a one on one with the ‘keeper, but Martinelli has the better all-round game (although at this stage of his career he obviously lacks experience).

    Just my opinion – feel free to disagree.

  2. TotalArsenal says:

    Cheers Rocky for a comprehensive and clear headed review of the game. All agreed on the player positives. Re Elneny, he looked leggy but he played all the games when XhakA and Partey were unavailable so this was to be expected. He worked his socks off for us. Re Auba, he is a panther not a wolf, and if Arteta wants only wolves he will find it hard at Arsenal. It’s not coming off as yet for him this season, but he got very close yesterday. I would persevere with him.

  3. RockyLives says:

    Morning TA
    “a panther not a wolf”
    What a great metaphor.

  4. jjgsol says:

    Surely the problem with Auba goes all the way back to the Exile.

    He thrives and needs service, with the ball passed to not where he is but where he will be.

    The lack of anyone who can do that effectively throughout the game has led to the drying up of chances and shots and thus goals for the person who needs that service.

    Whoever is to blame for that, whether arteta or the club or both must also accept responsibility for the decline in form of a highly paid player, so the cost of the Ozile has been enormous in respect of wasted money and opportunity.

    ESR is not the completed article, not by a long way, but he needs to be nurtured with a slow initiation with proper expert training to develope his abilities to the maximum.

    Is arteta the best to do that? I have my doubts.

    Despite the regular description of him being such a great coach, in the last year have we actually seen it in action as we sunk down the league?

    The players cannot be blamed. It is their job to play and his to coach.

    If he can only coach players hand picked by him that is hardly the sign of a great coach.

  5. Gööner In Exile says:

    Afternoon all, a fair summation of the game Rocky.

    Like you I was disappointed in Aubameyang’s contribution, and as you say Elneny had some clumsy moments. However in those instances his short passing options were limited.

    Arteta’s post game interested me as he talked about players playing with freedom and that was the message at half time. It appears to me that some players can thrive in that environment, Martinelli for example and ESR appear to be prepared to play what they see.

    Whilst I have some sympathy with your view on Auba Jigsol, I think there is something else amiss, Auba isn’t making the runs he did previously and as Rocky and others have pointed out Martinelli is prepared to run and run and chase lost causes that give our defence and midfield more chance to squeeze the play and the opponents less time to pick an easy pass.

    I would say the major difference in the last two games is that we have been more aggressive without the ball from front line backwards.

  6. Rasp says:

    Hi everyone and another big thank you to Rocky. Spot on GB, I agree with your analysis of the reasons for Auba’s drop in form. We have to accept that there is no way back for Ozil and furthermore I agree with those who think his continued presence may be unsettling for some players. Also I agree with your observation that the work rate and determination of our play when not in possession has been the difference in the last two games …. and we know that Ozil would not have bought into that. The high press only works if every player buys into it. Give the opposition one gap and they will play through you.

  7. jjgsol says:

    Have we been using the “high press” in every game?

    I think not.

    Bloggers that I have been seeing have regularly complained that we have not been doing so,

    I suspect that we have not employed it because many of the players, not only the Ozile, if you are correct in saying that of him, have not signed up.

    It seems that only the youngsters have been able to adapt their game in that way, but not the experienced players.

    Does that mean that we need to play the youngsters to operate the high press if that is what is wanted?

    Does that also mean that all of those players that we are supposedly getting to appease Arteta will also be happy to do so?

    I wonder if we stumbling into more trouble.

  8. Rasp says:

    Hi jgsol, I would reply yes to all those points except the last. It does not require young players per se to operate a high press. I’d prefer the term high energy press because it could be suicidal to operate a high press against liverpool or totnum … or teams with the likes of Vardy etc. I think the point is that if we lose possession high up in the opponents half we want to see every player doing their utmost to get back to defend.

  9. Stan Adams says:

    Great results against Chelsea and Brighton but lets not get carried away there are several issues at Afc that need to be fixed.
    We have seven half backs Holding,Gabriel,Mari and Saliba are good players and Mustafi,Chambers and Luis are deadwood and need to go.
    In Midfield we have three good players in Danni,Smith Rowe and Partey,Xhaka,Elneney and Willock are not good enough.
    And up front we have to many good players Saka,Auba,Martinelli,Nelson and Laca are enough we dont need Nketiah,Willian,Balogun.
    Finally the full backs well Tierney is possibly the best player at Afc and is untouchable with Saka covering that spot if Tierney is unavailable which leaves Bellerin and Soames on the other flank and i would sell both and get a new face in there with perhaps Maitland Niles as cover.
    So overall thats 11 players that are in the squad plus the trouble makers Ozil and Guendouzi which makes 13 players,13 high wages that need to go in my opinion.
    So dont get carried away when the 12 or 13 good players that we have carry the bad ones over the line against Chelsea and Brighton there is a huge problem at Afc and Kronke for once is right when he says Afc need to offload the deadwood before they can buy again.
    Ozils wage alone is 22 Million a year the deadwood players are holding Arteta back thier wages restrict Afc going out and buying good players and we badly need new good players.

  10. LB says:

    “Half-Backs” wow, haven’t heard that in a while, interesting read, not my site but glad you popped by, feel welcome to return. We like a tactical chat.

  11. RA says:

    Superb, Rocky, both the Post and the player ratings.

  12. RA says:

    Good morning, Rocky,

    Brighton did play pretty well, and there was something about their physicality that was a bit of a giveaway to the difficulties Arsenal experienced.

    You are right that ‘The Walrus Man” is going to ape that physicality when next we play Brum.

    What the hell am I going on about — OK it has nothing to do with my mixing the metaphors “Walrus and Ape” when referring to Fat Sam.

    I am concerned that we have, since the days of the Invincibles, shrunk the size of the players we have brought through the youth teams, or brought in during the various transfer windows, whereas some very ordinary managers have built up some large hairy-assed players who we have out skilled but succumbed to in important games.

    As an example, take Dan Burn who at 6’ 6″ (1.98m) is only an inch shorter than me at 6.7″ (2.01m) – an average player, but good in the air and a bit scary for some of our players.

    I wonder if Fat Sam has a few of them up his sleeve? 😁

  13. RockyLives says:

    Morning Redders

    To be honest I think we’re better size-wise than we have been at other times.

    Remember when we had Rosicky, Santi, Fabregas, Hleb, Arshavin, Coquelin etc all in the same team?

    However, you’re right to mention Burn. Every time Brighton had a corner we decided that the man we would choose to mark the lumbering Brighton titan was none other than little Hector Bellerin.

    Perhaps Arteta images that Bellerin has the stature of his namesake, the hero of Troy.

    Among our current lot I would say the following players have a bit of heft to them: Leno, Holding, Mari, Gabriel, Luiz, Elneny, Partey, Xhaka.

    And while Saka, Tierney, Laca, Nelson and Pepe would struggle to earn a living in UFC, Smith Rowe, Martinelli and Balogun are reasonably well built.

    Aubameyang is pretty tall but is one of those ‘big’ players who seems physically small in the way he plays.

  14. Gööner In Exile says:

    I don’t think Hector was there to mark Burn but simply annoy and block runs allowing others who were marking zones to attack the ball and hopefully slowing the progress of the big units towards the same ball.

    As I said a couple of weeks back I have become surprised at how tiny Xhaka actually is, and maybe that is because we now have taller players alongside him. That said size isn’t everything….Messi.

    Jigsol I think the point others have made about the high press (which is something I have asked previously) is if we aren’t going to press why leave out Ozil. However in the last two games those youngsters have pressed higher and all have bought into the idea, we don’t have to expect them to win the ball but we do need them to slow the opponents counter and make it harder to pick passes. Martinelli, Saka and ESR have all given that extra energy and closing down than Pepe, Willian and Auba have offered all season.

  15. Gööner In Exile says:


    I think the management above Arteta need to realise the errors made in the past, there has been a scattergun approach to transfers that have led to us signing available players for perceived weak positions.

    We have to plan better. One of the reasons Sokratis and Ozil needed to be left out was the HomeGrown Rule. That is quite shockingly bad planning when we have starters and squad players like Saka, Martinelli, ESR, Nketiah who don’t even require naming in the 25 man squad.

    We only have 22 players named because we only have 5 over 21s that qualify as homegrown.

    The squad rules require that we can have 8 home grown plus 17 non home grown (don’t forget non homegrown includes anyone who was on books of an English club for 3 years before they turn 21, Holding is home grown, Martinelli will also be homegrown eventually.

    That’s why although I see people’s point on Willock there should be an effort made to keep him, plus Nketiah to ensure when they are over 21 we can have a full PL complement of players until we have others from our youth ranks that can replace them.

    The club need to concentrate on adding real quality only, leave the squad positions for our home grown players.

  16. Aaron says:

    Thank you for your unrelenting work!
    Are you retired or just write these at 2am??

    To everyone, have a much safer, happier, and more enjoyable 2021!

    For those that have lost, my condolences to your family and you.

    Even if you do not believe in vaccines, please take it when your turn arises as it will make the earth a safer place to be.

    Cheers and bring on 2021..

  17. RockyLives says:

    Thanks Aaron

    A Happy New Year to you and all on AA, whether regulars, occasionals, or passers-by…

  18. RockyLives says:

    It looks like Kola is going to be the first departure (back to Schalke on loan).

    He never quite cut the mustard at Arsenal but will always be remembered for jumping out of a car and trying to take on a gang of armed robbers 😀

    Proper hard nut.

  19. jjgsol says:

    Are we not getting a little bit carried away with the Chel$ki performance and forgetting the underlying reasons why the previous 15 games were so poor?

    I did not watch the Brighton match but from the comments I have seen, we, very much, reverted to type in most of that game.

    We had one shot only in the first half and 2 shots on target throughout.

    Was it not simply, more of the same with a different cast?

    Let us not forget that Brighton has won 1 league game at home all season (against us) and dropped all of its strikers.

    I do not think that we should let Arteta get away with one decent performance out of 16 (I do not regard the Manure game as particularly good performance as we were the better of 2 awful teams).

    Could it also be that Chei$ki were expecting and prepared for a standard Arteta style of play and the fact that Arteta had to play Martinelli and ESR (I simply do not believe that playing them was voluntary), blindsided them?

    If Arteta is allowed to hide behind one good result, we can be rest assured that he will soon feel secure enough to recall Willian and Luiz and it will be as you were.

    One swallow does not make a summer and one good win does not mean that Arteta will change because he won’t unless he has to and once the pressure from the fans eases, he will feel that he can do what he likes.

  20. RockyLives says:

    Happy New Year jjg

    I watched the Brighton game and the performance was pretty good.

    I have little time for the ‘attempts on goal’ stat.

    You can have a game where one team has five tame long-range shots straight at the ‘keeper while their opponents carve them open multiple times only for the final pass to be an inch away from the attacker’s foot or head each time, while they also hit the post twice. Team Two bossed the game and on another day might have scored three or four goals, but the stats will stay Team One had five attempts on target while Team Two had zero.

    We were poorer in the first half against Brighton but we created three or four really good goal scoring chances (which was a decent achievement against the Seagulls’ 11-man defence).

    Then we improved in the second half and were unlucky not to win more comfortably.

    That said, I agree with you that the jury is still out on Arteta. It will be interesting to see his team selections when everyone is available including Willian etc. If he drops Martinelli and ESR then he will deserve criticism.

  21. Rasp says:

    Happy New Year everyone. Thank you to Rocky, RC78 and all those who have kept the site going with their comments. It’s good riddance to 2020 and welcome to new hope in 2021.

  22. Akinzo says:

    Arteta isn’t a bad coach as many would have us believe. The Arsenal are going through turbulent times and this isn’t the handiwork of the Spaniard.The fickleness of modern football fans has seen fans’ expectations skyrocket beyond reality.
    How many managers arrived at a struggling club and instantly transformed them to champions. Even the reverted Pep couldn’t impose his philosophy on a high-riding Man City in his first season. He had to spend a fortune to fashion the club in his image for starters. Have we forgotten how much it cost the club to clear their defence and of what it was and what it is today? Over to hundred million pounds.
    Ditto Jurgen Klopp. He came 8th in his first season and didn’t win the league until his third year.
    I laugh at arguments detailing how bad a manager Arteta is! Yes he is a greenhorn but we witnessed last season how he managed to outwit more season managers to win the FA Cup, while also recording impressive victories in the league. There is no way he won’t stumble but he will learn fast.
    Already, the recruitment of Willian is seen a bad on, thy also believe Pepe can never rise to the expectations that preceded his arrival. Those are fallacies. The Brazilian was brought on board because over the years he had been massive for Checks and there’s nothing stopping him from reaching same lever with us. All he needs is just some time to adapt. He isn’t a lost cause.
    Managers don’t reveal the weaknesses of their teams and often refrain from talking about their plans in the media but Arteta was bumbled into telling us how far he is from the personnel he needs to make us formidable.
    He will be a great coach.
    On Aubameyang, he is shot on confidence at the moment. He scored a lot of goals so a lot of fans never noticed his hold up play wasn’t too notch. His goal scoring ability bhasnt suddenly deserted him, he will be back as the nature squad turns the corner. How many games has he played for us and how many goals he’s scored?
    It’s really funny how fans who all season had talked relentlessly on how deseperately we needed to farm out Lacasseteare now singing a new tune. Two goals in two games he’s now talked about the new Thierry. That’s how fickle fans can be.
    We are in luck with the youngsters coming up through the ranks. They have demonstrated the hunger and determination to establish themselves in the first team. Many continue to express reservations on Willock’s ability to be an asset they’ve forgotten how young the lad is. Players don’t grow to become superstars overnight.
    Arsenal fans need to acknowledge that we are in a dry patch and we don’t have the deep pockets of City, Manure or Chelsea but with the due diligence in the next few TWs, we can shape our squad into a title contenders.

  23. Akinzo says:

    Please don’t mind the errors. My phone has a mind of his own …” Reverted Pep….beating seasoned managers……to name quite a few

  24. jjgsol says:

    Akinzo. You say that Arteta is not a bad coach.

    There is some distance between not being not a bad coach and being a good one, surely.

    Many people are saying that he is a good coach, a great coach or one of the best around. Yet, there is no evidence of this.

    Since the Ozile, that is since the first lockdown, before which the Exile was playing and we lost, what was it, only one game, the standard of our performances has deteriorated considerably.

    Please don’t tell me that that is because he has had to make do with Wenger’s and Emery’s deadwood and that he will really show how good he is once he has brought in all his own players.

    Firstly, he has brought in plenty of players since he took over and seems to be able to do little with them and secondly, what sort of “good coach” is it that cannot make something out of a team of experienced professionals, all of whom are experienced internationals?

    What he has done is produced boring, negative, unadventurous football, creating few chances and taking even less, whilst not resolving the so-called defensive crisis we are going through.

    Sorry, but I see no evidence of him being much of a coach at all.

    But, to please his fans, let us continue with him doing the same and continue the fall towards the Championship.

    Rocky, I am happy to respect your views, but why is it that the universal comments that I have seen about the first half are that it was pretty bad, against a pretty awful team with no strikers on the pitch.

    I agree, the number of shots may be misleading. However, the number of shots on target is not. According to the BBC sports website, we had 3 in the match. If 1 or 2 of those were tame shots, then the figure is much worse.

    Do you think that is good enough for a good coach, with the players we had on the pitch?

    Wishful thinking has taken over so many people. I fear that the reality is different.

  25. RockyLives says:

    Akinzo, jjgsol
    Excellent debate.

  26. RockyLives says:

    New Post

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