Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang patiently waited as Dani Alves and Adama Traore stole the show in their first Barcelona performances.
The savvy know-how of the Brazilian, and the vertical threat of the Spaniard, were missing elements to Barcelona’s game that paid dividends right away.
But there was one thing missing. Perhaps the most important thing of all.
A world class goalscorer.
The way that Barcelona captured Aubameyang from Arsenal was highway robbery, and that was about the only way they were ever going to pull off the signing of one of the best number nines in Europe during the January transfer window.
Aubameyang got his first start against Napoli midweek. He didn’t find himself in a position to score goals, but just as he had done during his cameo appearances off the bench, he went to work on the intangibles.
And that’s the reason he doesn’t have to fear competition from in-form Luuk de Jong. Aubameyang is a well rounded, multi-dimensional, center-forward.
The first thing you notice is how well he presses high up the field with his long strides, and ability to close down opponents in a hurry.
Aubameyang may not be the most technical on the ball, but he knows how to drop in and combine with his back to goal, and how to make dangerous runs behind defensive lines as well.
Against Valencia, he put all his skills, and years of experience, on display, and was the difference maker in front of goal that Barcelona has been missing since the departure of Luis Suarez.
Sure he was lucky to get credit for the third goal that made it a hat-trick, but being lucky, or at least the appearance of good fortune, is what being a good center-forward is all about.
Being in the right place at the right time, and making the moment count.
Barcelona is clicking right now. Xavi’s system hasn’t changed much since his arrival. The intention was always to play 4-3-3, with dynamic high and wide wingers, but the question was always who would play in the middle.
Now, there seems to be an answer, if Aubameyang continues to seize the opportunity.
Combine that with super sub specialist Luuk de Jong, and the experience of backup Martin Braithwaite, and Xavi all of a sudden has an embarrassment of riches to work with.
Not to mention that the return of Memphis Depay and Ansu Fati isn’t too far away.
The pressure is on the coach now.
It’s a problem when you don’t have depth, and an entirely different problem, albeit a good one, when you have to make hard choices around who plays and who doesn’t.
Aubameyang should be, without a doubt, the first choice man in the middle. It’s the wingers who need to worry about the healthy competition that’s brewing.
As for the young and talented playmakers in the midfield, how exciting to know you finally have a reliable finisher up front.
All that creativity and genius on the ball may not go to waste.
Barcelona is a team that can score goals now.
Good work Auba.
Hopefully your goal scoring example is contagious.
There’s no better way to announce to the world that Barca is back, than with the ball hitting the back of the net again and again.