Monday, 17 February 2014

Can Aubameyang replace Lewandowski?

The news that Robert Lewandowski will leave Borussia Dortmund for Bayern Munich is one that further asserts the Bavarians’ dominance over German football, to be able to sign the best players form their main title rivals is something which must be hard for the Dortmund fans to swallow.

In the summer Dortmund completed the signing of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Saint-Etienne. In 36 games in Ligue 1 Gabon international Aubameyang scored 19 goals and supplied 9 assists, averaging 3.7 shots per game, an improvement from 16 goals and 7 assists the year before. His performances were enough for Dortmund to sign the highly coveted attacking player.

The 24 year old has scored 13 goals in 15 starts (5 sub appearances), Lewandowski has scored 1 more in 20 starts. Aubameyang has been predominantly been deployed on the right of an attacking 3 in behind the Polish forward. His pace means that he is more than able to play out wide, but his more natural position is as a central striker.

Aubameyang certainly looks like he will be able to surpass his goal tally in his first year in Germany and given how it is generally of a higher standard than the French league, that’s testament to his ability. Although, arguably he’s now playing in a better team alongside better players so you’d expect an improvement in his performances.

There’s clearly a massive difference between leading the line and playing as an attacking midfielder. Aubameyang may not have the strength to lead the line in the same way that Lewandowski does, the latter wins on average 4.8 headers per game, whereas Aubameyang wins just 1.2. That could be as he’s playing out wide so there’s less long balls targeted at him, that said, in his time with Saint Etienne he was winning less than one (0.5) aerial duels per game. Aubameyang is still a physical presence, he’s the same height as Lewandowski.

His style of play relies more on his pace and movement rather than on his strength, which may fit in better with Dortmund’s counter pressing style of play, than using Lewandowski’s aerial ability. It could lead to them playing more on the counter, they certainly have the players to do so.

Half (18) of his performances last season where as the central striker, in the same 4-2-3-1 formation as employed at Dortmund, so there’s no doubt that he’s comfortable playing in that position. It probably is his best position, although he has the ability to play in several positions, so you’d expect an improvement if he was used there.

The decrease in the number of shots per game, from 3.7 to 2.4 is as a result of not playing as the central striker. However, he’s scored more goals, which suggests Aubameyang has become somewhat more clinical in his time at Dortmund.

If he is to mature to the main striking role next season, he’s now had a season in German  football and has proved he can produce the goods on that stage and so deserves a chance in his best position. He’s had time to acclimatise to the style of play and German football overall, which should stand him in good stead for the future. There’d be a level of apprehension if he was brought in as a direct replacement without experience of the league itself.

Whether or not Klopp signed him with a view to playing him as a central striker in the future is unknown, however it’s certainly an option he has and given Aubameyang’s performances this season it must be one he is considering. If not, Klopp has a player who can provide goals from a wide area which could be as important if whoever else is brought in needs time to settle and adjust to the style of Dortmund’s play. Lewandowski is one of the best strikers in the world and his loss would damage any team, but in Aubameyang Dortmund have a player who can readily fill his boots. 

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