Arsenal have served up an interesting FPL conundrum for the new season, with £100-million worth of striking talent vying it out to lead the line for the north London club – and potentially one of the vital premium striker positions in your FPL side. This is not the time for mistakes, people.
On the face of things, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (£11.0m) is the obvious choice and one of the stand-out picks in FPL: a world-class goal-scorer, proven over many seasons against the meanest defences of the Bundesliga. His arrival at Arsenal, six months after Alexandre Lacazette (£9.5m), blew the Frenchman out of the water. Aubameyang made more starts and scored more goals, including five in his first six appearances. Currently sitting in 21.8% of FPL squads, compared to Lacazette’s 4.4%, going for Aubameyang over Lacazette would seem to be a no brainer… But is it?
I’m going to argue that things might be a lot closer between the pair over the course of the 2018/19 campaign. Lacazette is a penalty-box predator, in his second full season, and a tantalizing FPL prospect at £9.5 million – if new Arsenal boss, Unai Emery, hands starts to both of them regularly.
Aubameyang played the first half of the season at Borussia Dortmund: 13 goals and 3 assists from 16 starts. In total, five and a half seasons in the Bundesliga, saw Aubameyang net 98 goals and 22 assists, at 94.5 minutes per return.
Having completed his January transfer to Arsenal, Aubameyang got his Premier League career off to a flyer, scoring on debut in a 5-1 drubbing of Everton. From then on, Aubameyang achieved a goal or assist every 75 minutes in the PL, which was bettered only by Aguero (£11.0m), at 73 minutes per return, of strikers. The only midfielder to put up a better rate was Salah (£13.0m), at 69.5 minutes per return.
Lacazette arrived six months before Aubameyang, from Lyon, off the back of 100 goals and 32 assists in 203 appearances during his Ligue 1 career. His debut season in north London was a solid one by most standards for a new striker in the Premier League, finishing with a creditable total of 14 goals – but he didn’t make the same impact as Aubameyang. Even so, and with a protracted spell out of action between February and March, Lacazette finished the season as the club’s top scorer.
Watching Arsenal games, I was often impressed with Lacazette’s movement, but disappointed with the inability of the midfield to spot his runs or supply the final ball. There’s no statistics for a player not being found in the box by a teammate, but it’s worth noting that Aubameyang’s overall XG was far higher (0.78) than Lacazette’s (0.56) in the Premier League last season.
I’d also argue that, although Aubameyang’s shooting was more accurate (79% shot accuracy to Lacazette’s 70%), the Frenchman’s hits pack more power. Also, to bring in some per 90 metrics, rather than going by appearance, Lacazette registered 2.73 scoring attempts per 90 minutes to Aubameyang’s 2.63. And contrary to what you might expect from Aubameyang’s pace, Lacazette completed more succcessful takes-on: 1.42 per minute versus 0.93 for Aubameyang.
So with a full pre-season under his belt, Lacazette could still click into a higher gear as the focal point of the Arsenal attack and improve upon his stats from 2017/18. We know they can play together – in fact the Gunner’s averaged 3.5 goals per 90 minutes with both on the pitch. Due to injury and ineligibility (Aubameyang in the Europa League), the pair started only three games last campaign. But in those matches, the Frenchman scored twice and claimed one assist while Aubameyang struck four times and registered two assists.
Arsenal look well prepared to begin the new season, following relatively high-profile friendlies against Atletico Madrid, PSG, Chelsea and Lazio. Along with Morata (£9.0m – no goals, one assist in pre-season), the Arsenal pair are the only premium strikers to have enjoyed a full pre-season.
As expected, Aubameyang has been used in two positions. He made two starts as central striker (PSG and Chelsea) but spent most of his minutes on the left of the front three. Sometimes he played both, as against PSG, where he started centrally but switched out wide for Iwobi in the second half.
Lacazette played all his minutes as central striker. He started all but two matches, coming on at half-time against PSG (grabbing a brace) and replacing Aubameyang for the last 20 minutes against Chelsea (scoring a late equaliser).
In the final warm-up game, a 2-0 win over Lazio in Sweden, Lacazette didn’t score but slipped a ball down the left to create one for Aubameyang. All said, both strikers finished with 6 goals a piece, Aubameyang assisting 3 and Lacazette assisting twice.
FPL Prospects 2018/19
With little between them for pre-season attacking stats, the big question is how they will fit in under new boss Unai Emery. Emery has traditionally favoured a 4-3-2-1, but seems to have settled on a 4-3-3 at Arsenal so far. With only one central striker role, Aubameyang looks the more nailed-on option for FPL minutes – he’s able to play anywhere across the attack – and if selected to spearhead the forward line, there’s no room for Lacazette.
However, I’m optimistic that Arsenal will mostly line up with a front three of Aubameyang, Lacazette and Mkhitaryan (£7.0m). Meanwhile, Ozil (£8.5m) is likely to be given a much freer number 10 role than he enjoyed under Wenger – and I hope this heralds a return to his creative form of 2015/16 – 19 assists in 35 appearances (second only to Thierry Henry in PL history) and 7 assists in as many matches between September and November 2015.
For now, I’d say go with Aubameyang. He’s neck-a-neck with Agüero as the go-to premium FPL striker at the start of the season, boasting the best goal conversion rate in FPL (at 41.7%) and excellent minutes per return last season. He should have more consistent minutes than the Argentine in the short-to-medium term, given that Aubameyang can play anywhere across the forward line. And if anything, he was more involved in the action playing as second striker than when playing as a lone frontman.
But keep an eye on Lacazette, too. Though clearly behind Firmino in the £9.5 million stakes at this stage, he could break out as an on-par option with the Liverpool man. And that, when there’s at least six stand-out options from Klopp’s Reds for your consideration, could be worth it’s weight in gold.