Is Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang an elite fantasy striker?


Last Sunday, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had a dream day in the North London derby. He scored twice and assisted another en route to a 4-2 win over hated rivals Tottenham. The only people nearly as excited as the Arsenal fans after the match were the fantasy players who selected him and saw the striker post a personal-high -- and league-best for the matchweek -- 37.5 points.

Now only a handful of points behind the superstars at his position and tier, it's time to ask the question if Aubameyang is an elite Premier League forward on the pitch, and in fantasy.

Admittedly, I'd thought about writing something on Aubameyang for a few weeks now but struggled to come to a conclusion, in large part because of the absurd rate at which he was scoring. His 10 goals have come from just 15 shots on target this season and, before Wednesday, he'd scored from 10 straight. "Surely he will fall off," I thought to myself, but here we are after 15 weeks, and it's not Aguero or Kane leading the league in goals, but Aubameyang.

His 66 percent rate of turning shots on target into goals this season is a solid 14 percentage points higher than his best previous season which, in theory, is wholly unsustainable.

Here's where things get interesting: While he's scoring at that incredible pace, his per 90 minute numbers for both total shots (2.64) and shots on target (1.20) represent his lowest marks over the last five seasons. However, if he was shooting and finishing along his typical five-year averages, he would have scored... exactly as many goals as he has this season (10).

So, he's shooting less, scoring more, yet is still exactly on pace with his previous rates of production. That could mean great things are ahead for the Arsenal man, considering his goals per 90 rate has stayed between .8 and 1 during the past five seasons. Project that over the rest of this campaign, and Aubameyang is in line score at least 28 goals.

He may not be shooting as frequently as he did in Germany but he knows how to pick his spots, and the goals will continue to come.

This will certainly be welcome, if not unexpected, news for Arsenal fans who have seen the Gabonese striker light up the league since landing on British shores. In fact, since his Premier League debut, no player has scored more than Aubameyang's 20 goals. While his shooting is clearly his greatest strength, it's not the only thing he's provided the London outfit. Yes, he has led them in shots (on and off target) and goals since joining, but it's also worth noting that he's been top five in both chances created and assists. Because of this, from January 31st on, Aubameyang would have been the best Arsenal player in the ESPN game last season, and third best overall.

This season, he's just about picked up where he left off, currently sitting just five points outside the top five, and 10 points short of being the best Tier 1 forward this season. That's pretty lofty heights for someone who, at a glance looks quite goal dependent, having thus far failed to record 10-plus points in any week in which he has not scored. Surprisingly, however, goals have only made up around half (100) of his points (200.8) this season. So when, and how, is he scoring all of those points?

Basically, when he's good, he's really good. When Aubameyang doesn't find the back of the net he averages just 5.4 points per game but, in matches where he does score, even if you take out the goals and assists, he still averages 7.89 points per game. Does this mean that Aubameyang scores when he's having a good day, or that scoring encourages him to perform better for the rest of the match? It's hard to say, but this does demonstrate the biggest flaw with Aubameyang both on the pitch and in your fantasy team: inconsistency.

This season, Aubameyang has finished with five or fewer points in five matches but has also scored 15 or more points seven times. Players with boom-or-bust profiles tend to provide more benefit than harm in season-long fantasy games but, in a weekly one like ours, it makes it easy for managers to shy away and choose "safer options". This is evidenced in by the selection rates of the forwards in Tier 1 with Aubameyang a clear fourth option behind the likes of Kane, Aguero, and Salah. While this is understandable, it leaves the Arsenal man as an incredible differential play for the braver among us, especially considering he has scored more than the latter two during the past five weeks.

That trend could well continue in coming weeks as well considering his fiery form and Arsenal's friendly fixtures. Their attack has the second easiest run through the end of the busy winter period, which may just see the Arsenal man take the top spot in his tier. Will there be bumps here and there? Of course, but Aubameyang is now clearly in the ranks of the elite strikers in the Premier League, and it's time to start treating him as such.