There were more than a few eyebrows raised on Saturday when Unai Emery decided to leave club top scorer Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on the bench for the north London derby.
Fans and pundits alike questioned the wisdom of leaving such a prolific player on the sidelines in favour of his less prolific strike partner Alexandre Lacazette.
While, ultimately, you could argue the manager was spot on with his selection, it certainly sparked debate among fans about just which setup is best for the Gunners.
Both Arsene Wenger and Emery have wrestled with a way to accommodate both players in their sides at the same time, but doing so has not always been easy and has, particularly under Wenger, come at the expense of the defensive side of the game.
So, what are the numbers behind the conundrum? Using statistics from this season’s Premier League matches, I took the time to calculate goals scored, goals conceded, and wins from games which have been started by Aubameyang, Lacazette, or both players together.
I have also looked at goals scored per start and goals conceded per start for both players.
The figures, from www.premierleague.com, are here:
Aubameyang starts: 10
Team goals scored: 23
Team goals conceded: 21
Win rate: 40 per cent
Team scored per start: 2.3
Team conceded per start: 2.1
Lacazette starts: 5
Team goals scored: 13
Team goals conceded: 4
Win rate: 80 per cent
Team scored per start: 2.6
Team conceded per start: 0.8
Both start together: 15
Team goals scored: 27
Team goals conceded 15
Win rate: 60 per cent
Team scored per start: 1.8
Team conceded per start: 1
Of course, it is difficult to measure the impact of a range of different factors in these figures – for example injuries, tactical instructions, quality of opponent, and the influence of one player on the other when coming on as a substitute – but it provides an interesting overall insight nonetheless.
While both players have been involved in high-scoring games when starting alone, matches in which the Frenchman has started alone have resulted in far fewer goals conceded and a much higher win rate. It is worth noting, that Lacazette has started far fewer league games on his own than Aubameyang, but is noteworthy all the same.
It would appear that the Gunners are bolstered defensively by Lacazette’s presence up front, in a way not seen with Aubameyang. They are also significantly more effective defensively when both players start together, although the team does manager fewer goals on average per game when the manager seeks to accommodate both.
Given Emery’s nature, I suspect he will continue to mix up his systems and tactics to suit his opponent but it is an interesting set of figures that shows, at least on the surface, what each player offers in the striking role, both alone and in combination.