It has been almost two years since Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang led Arsenal to the Europa League final. The Gabonese international has had plenty of big moments for Arsenal since joining Borussia Dortmund. But none more so than on May 9, 2019, when he stunned a raucous Mestalla.
Valencia was full of steam after an early Kevin Gameiro goal in the first leg of the semi-final at Emirates Stadium. But Aubameyang squeezed the energy out of the Spanish side and their backers with a fantastic equalizer on 17 minutes.
Just over an hour later, he was seated in the away dressing room, posing for pictures with the match ball after scoring a stunning hat-trick to give Arsenal a 4-2 victory and a place in the final.
Aubameyang said this week, “I guess it was my best performance since I’ve been here at Arsenal. It was a fantastic game.”
That night in Valencia was probably Aubameyang’s best in an Arsenal shirt. His heroics in the FA Cup last season when he almost single-handedly lifted the trophy for the Gunners with goals in the semi-final against Manchester City and the final against Chelsea, come close.
Few will ever underestimate his success in Valencia or the ruthlessness he has shown in the tensest of circumstances.
Mikel Arteta wants his major stars to win, and no one in this Arsenal squad is bigger than Aubameyang. Arsenal’s poor form this season can undoubtedly be attributed to the fact that their captain has had a tough season. Both on and off the field.
When Aubameyang signed his new deal shortly after the victory over Fulham on the opening weekend of the season in September, there was a sense of hope in the Emirates.
Aubameyang went on a streak of only one goal in 11 league games. Without their talisman hitting the net daily. Arsenal slumped to 15th in the table, just four points outside the relegation zone, as Christmas approached.
On the field, things have changed since then. With Arteta’s team currently in ninth place and Aubameyang scoring 10 goals in 18 games since the turn of the year. But off the field. Things have remained tough for the Gunners’ captain.
He was granted a leave of absence by the club in January to spend time with his ill mother. The leaves were given before contracting malaria while on international duty with Gabon last month.
After arriving late for the clash, the 31-year-old was also left out of the north London derby victory over Tottenham Hotspur at Emirates Stadium.