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5 Young attackers Arsenal can buy to replace Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

  • A contractual disagreement could see Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang leave Arsenal at the end of the season.
  • If he does, here are the five young players the Gunners could replace him with.
SENIOR ANALYST
Feature
Modified 20 Mar 2020, 15:24 IST

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West Ham United v Arsenal FC - Premier League
West Ham United v Arsenal FC - Premier League

A freakish triple switch saw Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang end up at Arsenal in the 2018 January transfer window. The Gunners paid Borussia Dortmund a then club-record fee for the Gabonese forward, who replaced Chelsea-bound Olivier Giroud at the Emirates Stadium. Dortmund, in turn, brought in Chelsea striker Michy Batshuayi on loan for the remainder of the season to complete the transfer roulette.

While both Batshuayi and Giroud have enjoyed limited success since their respective moves, Aubameyang has been a massive hit at Arsenal. The forward has undoubtedly been the Gunners' best player following his transfer and has scored 61 times in 96 appearances since January 2018. His 22 strikes in the league, while playing both as a forward and left-winger, won him the Golden Boot for the 2018/19 Premier League season, which he jointly shared with Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah.

Recent reports, however, state that Arsenal may soon have to part ways with their talisman due to a contract dispute. The Gabon international is yet to renew his contract with the Gunners, which ends in 2021, and several clubs are said to be monitoring the situation. As such, the North London outfit could be forced to sell Aubameyang in the upcoming transfer window, so as to not lose him on a free transfer later on.

If Arsenal do indeed sell their star man, here are five young players with similar qualities they could reinvest in.


#1 Rafael Leao (AC Milan)

Hellas Verona v AC Milan - Serie A
Hellas Verona v AC Milan - Serie A

"At youth level, he was better than Cristiano Ronaldo." - those were the words of Sporting CP's youth coach Tiago Fernandes when asked about Rafael Leao.

The Portugal U-21 international has suffered under the weight of expectations, having been compared to first Ronaldo and then, Kylian Mbappe. Transferring between three clubs in three years hasn't helped him either, as he struggles to find consistency and stability on the pitch. Leao, however, has shown plenty of promising signs, more so during his stint at Lille than AC Milan, and could prove to be a future star.

Leao is adept at playing as a centre-forward, a second-striker, or even a winger, offering his managers tactical versatility. He possesses tons of pace, allowing him to exploit the spaces in behind defenders - something that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang does every week at Arsenal. Furthermore, his aerial ability and willingness to drop deep allows him to link play with the midfielders while his pace and agility can also be useful in pressing the opposition inside their own half.

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Statistically, Leao has suffered this season, with his goal contributions dropping down to four (2 goals, 2 assists) from ten (8 goals, 2 assists) in 2018/19. However, with the right coach and a little bit of consistency, the Portugal youth international could prove to be an excellent replacement for Aubameyang at Arsenal.


#2 Jonathan David (Gent)

Jonathan David playing for K.A.A Gent
Jonathan David playing for K.A.A Gent

In Pierre-Emerick Aubamyang, Arsenal have a striker capable of providing them with over 20 throughout a season while also contributing with assists. His loss, therefore, is expected to hit the Gunners hard unless they replace him with the right man.

Jonathan David could be that man. The Brooklyn-born K.A.A Gent striker is in scintillating form this season and has contributed with 23 goals and 10 assists in 46 matches. His numbers for his international side, Canada, also are impressive, with David scoring 11 goals in 12 matches so far.

Like Aubameyang, David is quick and strong and often uses these attributes to drive forward with the ball into dangerous spaces. He can play across the frontline but is most effective playing behind the main striker. With the finishing ability to back him up, the Canadian youngster bears a similar profile as that of Aubameyang and Marcus Rashford and could thrive in England.

A talent like David is hard to go unnoticed and thus it is of no surprise that the Gent star is one of the most in-demand youngsters in Europe. The likes of Arsenal, Everton, Chelsea, Lyon, and Manchester United have all been linked with the attacker, who is certain to leave Belgium at the end of the season.


#3 Jean-Philippe Mateta (Mainz)

Jean-Philippe Mateta in action for Mainz 05
Jean-Philippe Mateta in action for Mainz 05

The ascent to the top hasn't been easy for Jean-Philippe Mateta, who at the age of 22 has already represented seven clubs. Having spent his youth career in the suburbs of Paris, Mateta finally hit the jackpot when Lyon spotted him in 2016. The Ligue 1 side sent the youngster out on loan to Le Havre in the second division in 2017 where he finished as the league's second-highest goalscorer. Mainz picked him up the following season, paying a club-record fee in the process.

Mateta scored 14 and provided three assists in his debut season in the Bundesliga, justifying the €8 million fee Mainz paid for him. The Frenchman even netted a hat-trick against fellow strugglers Freiburg that season and ultimately finished just outside the top 10 in the scoring charts. The 22-year-old has seen his progress at Mainz stall following an injury. He missed the first 14 games this season but scored twice in the next 10.

The Mainz star has previously compared himself to Zlatan Ibrahimovic, possessing similar attributes as the Sweden legend. As such, Mateta is an excellent finisher, evident by the 51 goals he has scored in 112 professional appearances. He is quick on the ground and strong in the air, which makes him a nightmare for defenders to deal with.

By his admission, Mateta is looking to leave Mainz at the end of the current season and has been linked with Sevilla and Napoli.


#4 Odsonne Edouard (Celtic)

Odsonne Edouard - striker for Celtic FC
Odsonne Edouard - striker for Celtic FC

On May 25, 2019, Odsonne Edouard scored twice for Celtic as they beat Hamilton to complete a remarkable treble-treble, winning all three domestic titles in Scotland for the third straight year. By now, the young Frenchman had become the team's leading striker, filling the void left by Moussa Dembele.

Celtic had paid a club-record fee to sign Edouard on a permanent deal from Paris Saint-Germain, where he had spent five years as a rising academy star. A loan deal initially brought the striker to Celtic Park in 2017, which the Bhoys converted into a permanent transfer after witnessing Edouard's talents.

He scored 11 times in his first season at the club, adding 23 more goals to his tally the following season. The France youth international was leading the charts for the current season as well, with 28 goals in 45 matches.

Unlike Aubameyang, the Frenchman is an out-and-out striker and leads the team from the front. While he may not be a like-for-like replacement for the Gabonese forward, Edouard could replicate his goalscoring exploits, thus allowing Arsenal to move on from his departure. Furthermore, his pace and physicality could help him hit the ground running in the Premier League too.

Like some of the other alternates on the list, Edouard is expected to be in high demand in the coming summer transfer window. Manchester United are currently said to be leading the race for his signature, with a host of other Premier League clubs interested too.


#5 Myron Boadu (AZ Alkmaar)

Myron Boadu in action for AZ Alkmaar
Myron Boadu in action for AZ Alkmaar

On November 19, 2019, 18-year-old Myron Boadu joined an exclusive list of Dutch footballers, such as Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Johan Cryuff, to score on their international debut. The striker came on to replace Memphis Depay early in the second half and scored the fifth and final goal in a Euro 2020 Qualifier against Estonia.

Boadu's international call-up was a result of his stunning form in the Dutch Eredivisie. The young striker established himself as the leading man for AZ Alkmaar ahead of the season after recovering from injury troubles. He has since been in excellent goalscoring form for the Cheeseheads and has netted 14 times in the league. His goals rank him second in the scoring charts currently while his goal contributions (20 in total) are the third-highest in the league.

What Boadu lacks in physicality, he makes up for in speed. The Netherlands international is extremely quick off the blocks and can constantly exploit the space behind the defender. Along with teammates Calvin Stengs and Oussama Idrissi, Boadu has formed an impressive attacking trident, leading his side's title charge.

The Dutchman came close to signing for Arsenal once before, although he decided to snub them and move back to Alkmaar. He may yet find himself playing at the Emirates, should the Gunners decide to replace Aubameyang with him.

Published 20 Mar 2020, 15:24 IST
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