Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is having a historic season for Borussia Dortmund this year. Despite failing to score over the weekend in a thrilling last minute win vs Wolfsburg, the Gabonese international has 17 goals in 15 games for BVB, already surpassing his totals from last year (16) and in 2013/14 (13). While many football fans will be familiar with the French born striker, it is worth taking a deeper look at him in an effort to account for his outstanding season. So, just who is this comic-book-loving, $4000, Swarovski-diamond-cleats-wearing social media mogul and goal scoring machine.
The son of former Gabonese international Pierre Aubameyang, Pierre Emerick was only 17 when he signed for Milan in January of 2007. His two brothers Willy and Catilina also started at AC Milan’s youth clubs, which isn’t that surprising considering that their father has been a Milan scout for over a decade now. Yet, perhaps due to his inexperience and immaturity, and due to AC Milan’s preference for older players coupled with their horrendous development/treatment of young strikers (their 3 most promising talents, El-Shaarawy, Pato, Paloschi all left the club before they turned 24) Auba never gelled at AC.
He was facing the all too familiar path of many former top flight talents, such as his African contemporaries, the Cameroonian great Samuel Eto’o and Ghanaian 2009 U-20 WC Golden Boot winner Dominic Adiyiah. Would he ever reach his potential like Eto’o, who was famously rejected by Real Madrid, only to torment them for years to come at Barcelona, where he became one of the best strikers of the past 15 years? Or would his career trajectory be that of Adiyiah’s, who 5-6 years ago was the hottest prospect in world football, and is now at 26 years of age toiling away in obscurity in the Thai league?
Well, we know how the story unfolded, but the road was a rocky one to say the least. After years of loan spells at Ligue 1 sides finally showed some of his class at Saint Etienne (along with a penchant for fast cars, as he famously painted his red Ferrari green to match the club’s colors) with two season of 19 and 16 goals respectively. Dortmund, bought him for 13 million Euros in July of 2013 and according to transfermarkt.de, could sell him for 35 million or more!
So, just how does a formerly middle tier striker produce such an astronomical breakout season at age 26, where he surpasses his total goals before December 1st? I will?use the help of this excellent compilation video along with some statistics, (see the list at the end of the post) as well as my own observations to identify TWO key areas that can perhaps account for Auba’s success.
- Team support?
The video and the games are excellent proof that Auba has enjoyed a tremendous amount of support from a number of his fellow BVB players, especially in the passing game. As seen in the video, those passes often lead to his goals.
Just briefly, here are some numbers to support:
Dortmund are passing more under coach Thomas Tuchel, and their possession numbers are up to 59% from last year’s 53%.
There are 3 Dortmund players in the top 5 of Most passes made in the Bundesliga this year, per Squawka, Ilkay Gündogan is 1st with 1166, while Mats Hummels and youngster Julian Weigl are 4th and 5th with over 1,000 passes.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Shinji Kagawa are 5th and 9th respectively in most key passes, per Squawka. The Japanese playmaker already has 6 assists this year. The aforementioned Armenian, a 5 time man of the match winner who just happens to be the highest rated player on?whoscored.com, has 7 assists, though only 1 of those to Auba (who in turn has 2 of his 3 assists to the Armenian playmaker)
Speaking of passing to Auba, Gonzalo Castro has all 4 of his assists to Aubameyang. It’s even more impressive, considering the former Leverkusen man has done it 559 minutes.
It’s not just the midfielders, but the defenders, as Matthias Ginter, a revelation this year, and usually deployed at right back, has also 4 assists. Mats Hummels, albeit capable of the odd defensive lapse this year, has been a ridiculously effective offensive player as his 181 Goal Impact rating shows. (100 is considered average)
So, in conclusion, Dortmund’s increased possession, some new signings panning out (Weigl, Ginter, and Castro) and better passing create more chances for Auba’s lethal finishing.
- Dortmund and Auba are just better this year
Sometimes, football can be remarkably difficult as the BVB found out in the first half of last year’s campaign under Jürgen Klopp. The long and the short of it was that they were just as unlucky, as terrible out of the gates. Borussia simply could not buy a goal in the first 3-4 months of the season, due to a combination of these factors
- some underperforming players (Mkhitaryan, Kagawa the disappointing duo of Adrian Ramos and Ciro Immobile),
- bad luck (at the start of the year they were running EIGHT (!!!)goals below expectation)
- perhaps Klopp’s coaching falling on deaf ears
(for a more complete breakdown, read this excellent piece from Statsbomb. )
So, this year under the leadership of Tuchel, the team improved, or rather we should say regressed towards the mean. After Sunday’s thrashing of Frankfurt, Dortmund have already found the back of the net 46 times in the Bundesliga in just 16 games. (Bayern are second with 45.) Overall, with 79 goals in all competitions, they have already surpassed their total goals of 78 from last season, and we have not even gotten to the winter break!
Furthermore, in a stark contrast to last year’s shooting woes, in the 2015/16 season Dortmund lead the Bundesliga with a 43% Shooting percentage, a towering lead over Bayern’s 36. This means that they are scoring on 43% of their shots! (via?Footyintheclouds)
Another stat that supports the reemergence of BVB is shots on target. Dortmund, in last year’s disastrous campaign, were averaging 16.7 shots per game but only 5.6 were on target. This year, they average fewer shots per game at 15.9, but more accurately at 6.7 per game. So they are a much more accurate team when it comes to shooting.
Auba is leading this trend, as he has the following shooting numbers:
Total Shots (exc. blocked shots) 46 , 57 (incl.)blocked Shots- On Target 29, – so that is over 50% of his shots end up on target.
What about Aubameyang’s shots per game? This year, the Gabonese striker is also averaging 3.8 shots per game (5 in the Europa League) while last year he was at 3.1 shots / gm. (stats are from Whoscored.com) Whoscored.com also says that while he averaged 1 shot a game from outside the box, this year he has brought the ball closer to the box and that number down to 0.4. http://www.whoscored.com/Players/44120/History/Pierre-Emerick-Aubameyang
He also has a conversion rate of 37%, and is scoring a goal at roughly every 77 minutes which are ridiculously high numbers.
For comparison, this article, which ranks the top 20 strikers in terms of conversion rate, had Lionel Messi ranked 6th at 29%, with Diego Costa (34.4%) & Alexandre Lacazette (34.6%) ranked 2nd and 1st, respectively. So, Auba this year is outperforming them!
So, the takeaway is that Dortmund have restored themselves to prior dominance, through a combination of improved shooting, excellent passing and player upgrades. Aubameyang seems like a different player, he is full of confidence look at this cheeky penalty, for instance.
There are a few reasons for his increased confidence. His hot goal scoring start and playing a larger part in Thomas Tuchel’s plans would be two of them. With apologies to the ever injured, but ever brilliant Marco Reus, Auba is the main attacking threat this year. If you recall, last year, dark overlord/ supreme genius Jürgen Klopp had tried Adrian Ramos and Ciro Immobile as forwards, and it is entirely possible, that Auba wasn’t 100% comfortable with that.
This season, though, he has emerged out of the shadows of Reus and the other strikers and transformed himself into a masterful and remarkably accurate finisher. With his confidence level sky high, thanks in large parts to the excellent support system that coach Tuchel has put around him, there is no telling how high Auba and BVB can go. Remember, after Match day 15th loss at Gladbach, Bayern’s first of the year, the Bavarians are somehow still only 5 points ahead of Dortmund.
Featured Image: All rights reserved by Christian Geschke
Three talking points as Tottenham secured top spot with a Champions League win over Borussia Dortmund
Tottenham ensured that they progressed to the Champions League knock-out stages as Group H winners after coming from behind to see off Borussia Dortmund in Germany on Tuesday night.
Dortmund – who were reliant on Real Madrid dropping points at Cypriot minnows APOEL Nicosia in the evening’s other fixture to stand any chance of progressing to the last 16 – took the early advantage when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang finished smartly from Andriy Yarmolenko’s clever flick.
Mauricio Pochettino’s side nearly crafted an equaliser before the break, only for both Christian Eriksen and Eric Dier to be denied in the space of a few minutes after superb work by ‘keeper Roman Burki.
But it didn’t take long for the visitors to draw level in the second-half, with Harry Kane afforded too much space on the edge of the box as he arrowed an effort into the corner with his first real chance.
Son Heung-min’s effort 15 minutes from time, a fine curling finish after tenacious work from Dele Alli, then sealed the turnaround and condemned the hosts to a shock early Champions League exit.
Tottenham bounce back after derby disappointment
After Saturday’s harrowing and disappointing defeat to old foes Arsenal, manager Mauricio Pochettino summed up Tuesday’s performance perfectly by labelling it as the ‘perfect reaction’.
It is hard to disagree with the Argentinian either, with his side displaying far more grit, determination and character at the Westfalenstadion to forget about their Premier League defeat and come from behind to beat a strong Borussia Dortmund outfit, securing their surprise status as Group H winners.
It seemed like they were suffering a North London derby hangover of sorts when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang fired the hosts in front on the half-hour mark, but Spurs dug deep and showed that they are aiming to do more than just make up the numbers in the Champions League this campaign.
All of a sudden they burst into life after the break, with Harry Kane and Dele Alli – who were both anonymous at the Gunners – getting involved more and causing problems for a tiring home defence.
It was the former who levelled things up when Kane’s neat low drive found the back of the net, signalling his sixth Champions League goal in five appearances this season, whilst Alli was influential in assisting both goals, seeing off two Dortmund defenders before laying off to Son Heung-min for his winner.
It wasn’t a match that needed to be won, considering Tottenham had already secured their safe passage into the knock-out stages, but the manner of victory will no doubt send out a message across Europe.
Dortmund’s decline ends in Champions League exit
Yet, whilst Tottenham will be buoyant and nervously await the draw for the last 16 next month, Borussia Dortmund will be reflecting on where things went wrong after a dismal European outing this season.
Despite having a number of world-class individuals in their ranks – Aubameyang, Shinji Kagawa, the young Christian Pulisic, Mario Gotze and the injured Marco Reus are all part of the squad at the disposal of manager Peter Bosz – it’s been a stuttering season both in Europe and domestically too.
Their inability to beat Cypriot minnows APOEL Nicosia across two matches all-but put an end to any aspirations of knock-out football, and it seems that the Europa League will now be their next destination.
Add this to their woeful Bundesliga form of late, losing four of their last five matches and drawing the other one to leave them nine points adrift of the top of the table, and warning signs are now flashing.
It’s all a stark contrast to 2013, the year that the German side fell narrowly short in the Champions League final, and it’s clear for all to see that something is fundamentally not right just four years on.
The fact that Aubameyang – who was left out of the Dortmund squad for their Bundesliga defeat at Stuttgart last week after being sanctioned by Bosz – barely celebrated a sublime goal tells its own story of the club’s affairs, and it seems that the head coach could be walking on a very fine tightrope.
Pochettino’s conundrum after Aurier impresses
One thing that was clear from Pochettino’s team selection on Tuesday, other than the clear fact that he was looking for a quick response to the Arsenal defeat by selecting a strong side, was that summer signing Serge Aurier seems to be the preferred right-back option for the Champions League this season.
The £24 million man may have garnered a reputation for being a bit erratic but, contrary to some of his rash moments this season, he played with an element of maturity and care on Tuesday evening.
He certainly warranted his selection at Dortmund, always offering an outlet on the right-wing and constantly finding himself with a wealth of space to run into behind their captain Marcel Schmelzer.
Aurier’s delivery was generally accurate too, forcing the Dortmund defence into last-ditch blocks inside their own area with Kane lurking, whilst he kept things compact alongside Davinson Sanchez at the back.
It would no doubt have hurt the Ivorian to have been omitted from the side for the mightily impressive win over Real Madrid after playing in Tottenham’s opening three European matches, but on Tuesday’s showing he’s laid down a marker for rival Kieran Trippier ahead of the knock-out stages.
Considering the question marks hanging over the head of boss Pochettino about whether Kyle Walker could be replaced it’s certainly not a bad dilemma to have, and a bit of healthy competition between two viable wide options could prove key for Tottenham as the season goes on.
Analysing Tottenham striker Harry Kane’s two-goal heroics against Borussia Dortmund
Much had been written about Harry Kane’s barren August, in which he failed to score. However, the drought is well and truly over now September has arrived. Since finding the net for England during the international break, the 24-year-old has rediscovered his scoring boots in spectacular fashion.
His brace against Borussia Dortmund in Tottenham Hotspur’s opening Champions League Group H clash was as impressive as it was timely, providing his side with the perfect start to their European adventure and banishing the Wembley Stadium hoodoo.
It’s no secret that Tottenham are heavily reliant on Kane (perhaps overly so) to be their chief attacking threat, but he rarely lets them down. Manager Mauricio Pochettino will be relieved that his star man is back to his best.
The England striker had a hand in all three of their goals against Dortmund, setting up Son Heung-min for the first before netting either side of half-time to ensure Spurs sent home their supporters happy.
Both goals underlined Kane’s natural ability as a finisher, which has earned him the Premier League’s Golden Boot trophy in the previous two seasons. His first was a carbon copy of Son’s, cutting in from the left and unleashing a rasping drive that beat Roman Burki at his near post.
Perhaps the Dortmund keeper’s positioning was questionable, but such was the power and pinpoint accuracy of Kane’s strike that it would have taken some stopping wherever he had been stationed.
Although Dortmund looked vulnerable at the back, their attacking prowess had caused Spurs problems all night and a 2-1 lead seemed precarious. So Kane’s second of the night was mightily important because it effectively killed off the game.
After being put through by Cristian Eriksen, Kane still had work to do to create enough space to get his shot away. Once again, the accuracy was such that it left Burki with little chance of preventing it from nestling in the back of the net.
Kane could have completed his hat-trick before he was substituted to a rapturous reception from the Wembley faithful, but the damage had been done. Everyone knows Kane likes to shoot from all areas of the pitch, but opponents seem powerless to stop him.
His two goals from four efforts – as well as an assist – represented an excellent night’s work for a man who has grown in stature to become one of the most prolific strikers in Europe. Kane will remain fundamental to Spurs’ hopes of honours this season, both domestically and in Europe.
“The Wembley curse is over” – Three things learnt from Tottenham 3-1 Borussia Dortmund
Tottenham may face a tough Champions League group including Real Madrid and APOEL alongside Borussia Dortmund, but they could not have gotten off to a better start than with a 3-1 home victory over the Germans.
Son Heung-Min raced clear in the opening minutes to give Mauricio Pochettino’s side the lead, but that lead was quickly pegged back after Andriy Yarmolenko looped an effort over Hugo Lloris and into the corner of the net.
That sparked Harry Kane to life, shrugging off two challenges before firing the ball into the back of the net for a third goal inside 15 minutes. After that the game calmed down as Kane’s second goal midway through the second half put the tie to bed.
A late sending off for Jan Vertonghen, who saw a second yellow for a flailing arm, marred things slightly but Spurs still got off to a dream start at Wembley on Wednesday night.
Here are three things that The Boot Room learnt from the game…
The Wembley curse is over
The tag of a Wembley curse has dogged Tottenham at the start of this season, not helped by defeat to Chelsea and a draw with Burnley, but there is no more emphatic way to put an end to such concerns than by wiping the floor with a difficult Champions League opponent.
Tottenham got off to a dream start through Son Heung-Min and even after conceding an equaliser they reacted well to rapidly re-take the lead. Such a win will give a huge confidence boost and Spurs fans will hope that it will remove any Wembley hoodoo too.
Dortmund continue to disappoint
Gone are the days when Borussia Dortmund were a force to be reckoned with in Europe under Jurgen Klopp, but their performances at Europe’s most elite level have been underwhelming for some time. At Wembley, they once again failed to deceive.
For all their possession and time on the ball in the Tottenham half, they failed to create many clear cut chances, with even their goal coming courtesy of an inspired strike from distance. Defensively they were poor too, with Tottenham scything the back four apart on the counter attack. Mauricio Pochettino will be confident of qualifying from a tough group on the back of that display.
Fernando Llorente offers an entirely different option
He may only have got a few minutes, but right from the off it was clear that the Spaniard’s introduction for Harry Kane would give Tottenham a different dimension in attack. Spurs immediately went for a more direct style with Llorente giving a real focal point in attack.
It’s likely that Llorente will have to wait until the Carabao Cup clash with Barnsley next week for his first start in Tottenham colours, but such aerial presence and power could come in handy against sides like his former team Swansea, who his new club face this weekend.
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