Analysing Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's Early-Season Form for Borussia Dortmund

Lars Pollmann@@LarsPollmannFeatured ColumnistOctober 18, 2015

Dortmund's Gabonese striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang makes a jump after scoring during the German first division Bundesliga football match Borussia Dortmund vs Hertha BSC in Dortmund, Germany, on August 30, 2015.  AFP PHOTO / PATRIK STOLLARZ
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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's record hunt ended with a substitution two minutes from time on Friday, as he could have become the first player to score in 11 consecutive Bundesliga matches with a goal at Mainz 05.

That the 26-year-old didn't accomplish the feat is a sign of the growth and maturation of a player whose development over the last one-and-a-half years has been nothing short of sensational.

Aubameyang had three golden opportunities to score the goal he needed. He chose to be a team player instead, assisting both goals for Dortmund and letting Marco Reus take a penalty.

Assisting goals is fun, too.
Assisting goals is fun, too.Oliver Kremer at Pixolli Studios/Getty Images

The Aubameyang who arrived in a €13 million move from AS Saint-Etienne in 2013 would, in all likelihood, not have squared the ball to Reus in the 18th minute of the game. He probably wouldn't even have seen him with a sight at goal himself. 

Aubameyang has developed into a more complete football player since then, which has come at the surprise of some at Dortmund. Freddie Rockenhaus, a Dortmund insider writing for Suddeutsche Zeitung, reported former head coach Jurgen Klopp was willing to sell the Gabon international after a somewhat disappointing first season in Germany.

With Robert Lewandowski still in fold, Aubameyang was almost exclusively playing on the right wing that year. There, he was supposed to make use of his lightning pace. But while he arrived with a bang, scoring a hat-trick in his first Bundesliga game, against FC Augsburg, the position exposed some tactical deficiencies.

Since his full-time move to striker, Aubameyang is on a tear. This calender year, he's the Bundesliga's most prolific player, scoring 21 goals and assisting another five in 25 matches.

He was Dortmund's lifeline last season, as his 16 goals helped prevent a disappointing season from turning into a disastrous one. Under new head coach Thomas Tuchel this term, Aubameyang has scored 14 goals in 15 appearances.

Aubameyang spurring on the crowd after scoring against Darmstadt.
Aubameyang spurring on the crowd after scoring against Darmstadt.PATRIK STOLLARZ/Getty Images

Four of his 10 goals in the Bundesliga tied the score or saw Dortmund go ahead; three of them prevented defeats against Hoffenheim and Darmstadt. He opened the scoring in the DFB-Pokal match at Chemnitzer FC and contributed two important goals to turn a 3-0 deficit into a 4-3 win at Odds BK in the Europa League qualifiers. 

His playing style has changed a bit in Tuchel's possession-orientated system. Under Klopp, Aubameyang needed a lot of space to be effective, as he was often targeted with long balls he had to chase. This year, Aubameyang seems more comfortable in tight areas, as Martin Rafelt noted for Spielverlagerung.de. 

His dribbling is much improved, and his link-up play, while certainly still a work in progress, is also miles ahead of where he was just two years ago. The highlight video below shows some of that.

Aubameyang, initially met with some scepticism because of his flamboyant personality and questions over his fit in a team that wasn't defined by individual stardom, has become a fan favourite. Dortmund supporters were over the moon when the striker signed a contract extension in the summer—despite his questionable fashion choice and an awkward three-way handshake.

Aubameyang's early-season form makes the extension, tying the Gabonese to the club until 2020, look like a stroke of genius from Dortmund's decision-makers.

Despite the new contract, Dortmund fans will undoubtedly have to endure endless rumours about their star striker in the coming months. Rockenhaus reported Arsenal made a bid of close to €50 million for Aubameyang in the summer, and speculation in Spain, such as in Mundo Deportivo is linking him with Barcelona.

Dortmund, however, won't show the slightest inclination they'll even listen to offers.

Aubameyang is positively irreplaceable for the club. Asked about his striker in the press conference before Friday's game at Mainz, Tuchel only had praise for Aubameyang, as ESPN FC's Stefan Buczko relayed.

If his early-season form is any indication, the hold the game at Mainz put on Aubameyang's goalscoring rampage will prove to be a temporary one.

Lars is a featured columnist writing on Borussia Dortmund. He also writes for Yellowwallpod.com. You can follow him on Twitter.

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