Borussia Dortmund returned to winning ways after two consecutive losses to Hamburg in the Bundesliga and Krasnodar in the UEFA Europa League, beating VfB Stuttgart 4-1 on Matchday 14 of the 2015/16 season.
The Black and Yellows had a number of standout performers in their comfortable win on Sunday.
Sven Bender, playing in central defence once more, this time for captain Mats Hummels—whom head coach Thomas Tuchel wanted to give a rest, according to his interview with German broadcaster Sky—played very well. The 26-year-old led his team in tackles, interceptions and clearances defensively, while also contributing going forward, having the most touches of all players on the pitch and playing a great pre-assist for the second goal.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan had an assist with a shot that Stuttgart's Polish 'keeper Przemyslaw Tyton could only palm away, three key passes and an absurd 10 completed take-ons.
Gonzalo Castro opened Dortmund's scoring just two-and-a-half minutes into the game, nodding Tyton's spilled clearance home with relative ease. The 28-year-old also produced the highlight of the game: a sensational assist with a back-heel flick.
But—once more—one man stands above all: Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
The 26-year-old continued his mesmerising form in front of goal with a brace, bringing his total for the season to 25 goals in 23 appearances across all competitions, with 17 in 14 in the Bundesliga.
The Gabonese is well on his way to shatter records for the club, having already set one for the most goals at this point in the season, according to Ruhr Nachrichten's Matthias Dersch on Twitter (in German), but he has even bigger prizes in his sight.
His 1.2 goals per game put him on schedule to score 41 for the season, which would be a Bundesliga record. ESPN FC's Uli Hesse wrote on the subject last week:
Whenever a Bundesliga striker has a good start and hovers near or above the goal-per-game mark after a third of the season or so, people invariably dig up Gerd Muller's ancient scoring record and wonder if it can be broken. The record stands at 40 goals, set in 1971-72 and, no, it will not be broken.
That was before Sunday's brace, however.
The game against then-16th-placed Stuttgart proved why one shouldn't put it past Aubameyang to reach that lofty number. When he is on his game, there is no defending against him.
His first came off Castro's amazing flick, but he still had an awful lot to do. He remained cool as a cucumber, cheekily lobbed Tyton and celebrated with his trademark somersault. That finish was something only a player full of confidence can dare to pull off.
His second, moments into extra time of the second half, showed why Aubameyang might be the hardest cover for any centre-back right now—not just in the Bundesliga, as the Gabonese will once again lead the race for the golden shoe after this weekend's round of games across Europe.
For his second goal, he effortlessly paced past Timo Baumgartl and slotted home with a powerful shot low into the far corner. The game had already been decided, and the Gabon international still toyed with his opponent.
Even if one agrees with Hesse and thinks the all-time record is out of reach, Aubameyang looks certain to break the magical barrier of 30 goals, which no one has accomplished since 1976/77, when Cologne's Dieter Muller scored 34.
Dortmund's No. 17 has 20 games to score 13 goals, so even if he misses a game here or there, through injury or for rest, he has a very good shot to reach the magical mark.
The Daily Mail's Graham Hunter profiled Aubameyang's incredible development as the main striker for the Black and Yellows—which we highlighted six weeks ago—this past weekend, before the game against the Swabians:
Aubameyang hit 41 in 120 Ligue 1 matches, sometimes in front of just 4,000-5,000 spectators when he was with Monaco. Since moving to Dortmund, notwithstanding the greater pressure, the more competitive nature of the championship, he has scored more goals (44) in only 78 Bundesliga games. This season, his overall total — 23 in 21 outings in league, cup and European games — makes him one of the most prolific strikers anywhere.
It's a cruel reality of the Bundesliga that Bayern Munich's dominance means the league's most prolific scorer won't even sniff at the title, but winning the "Torjagerkanone" for the leading goalscorer at the end of the season isn't the worst consolation prize.
All stats from the game against Stuttgart via WhoScored.com.