Since his £10.8 million summer transfer from Barcelona to Stamford Bridge on the last day of the summer transfer window, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has had a difficult time in Chelsea. In 18 appearances across different tournaments, the Gabonese attacker has only scored three goals.
The 33-year-old Aubameyang participated in all six of Chelsea’s Champions League group stage games this season, scoring twice against AC Milan. The striker, however, was not included in the Blues squad for the Champions League knockout rounds. Not only that, but he was also left out of Chelsea’s squad for their match against 20th-place Southampton at home, which resulted in a 1-0 defeat for the Blues.
Yet, Potter said Aubameyang is a crucial member of the team before the match against Southampton: “Pierre’s in our squad. He remains an important player for us. He’s worked hard and he knows the situation at the moment. Nothing is set in stone. His attitude has been really good.”
According to reports, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was astonished by some of the players chosen for Chelsea’s Champions League squad in his place. Chelsea’s revamped team for the Champions League included January acquisitions Joao Felix, Enzo Fernandez, and Mykhailo Mudryk, with Aubameyang being one among the left-outs.
Chelsea’s Champions League squad
To analyze this, let’s dig deep into the UEFA Champions League squad size rules and the present Chelsea squad for the knockouts.
According to UEFA, “A maximum of 25 players, two of whom must be goalkeepers. There are a minimum of eight places reserved exclusively for ‘locally trained players’. If a club have fewer than eight locally trained players in their squad, then the maximum number of players on List A is reduced accordingly. If a club gets to the knockout stages, it can add upto three players before the round of 16. Although the size of the squad must not exceed 25.
Players may have played in qualifying for the UEFA Champions League or UEFA Europa League, but only one of them can have played in the UEFA Europa League group stage. Players cannot represent two clubs in the UEFA Champions League from the group stage onwards.”
Here is Chelsea’s Champions League Squad
- Kepa Arrizabalaga
- Marcus Bettinelli
- Edouard Mendy
- Thiago Silva
- Trevoh Chalobah
- Ben Chilwell
- Reece James
- Kalidou Koulibaly
- Cesar Azpilicueta
- Marc Cucurella
- Wesley Fofana
- Enzo Fernandez
- N’Golo Kante
- Mateo Kovacic
- Christian Pulisic
- Ruben Loftus-Cheek
- Raheem Sterling
- Mason Mount
- Denis Zakaria
- Hakim Ziyech
- Conor Gallagher
- Carey Chukwuemeka
- Joao Felix
- Mykhailo Mudryk
- Kai Havertz
Aubameyang was chosen over
- Christian Pulisic, is currently injured and not expected back until at least early March.
- Hakim Ziyech, who was on the verge of getting transferred to PSG, only if there weren’t any technical issues, only a few days before the squad was announced
- A pool of 7 players (Conor Gallagher, Carey Chukwuemeka, Denis Zakaria, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Enzo Fernandez, N’Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic) covering 2-3 spots in the central midfield position.
The Aubameyang Conundrum
Scoring 141 goals from 213 matches for Borussia Dortmund, Aubameyang is not adored by his former club. Three separate Dortmund head coaches — Tuchel, Peter Bosz, and Peter Stoger—suspended Aubameyang for being late to either practice or team meetings, with the last incident being during the January 2018 transfer window and taking place against the backdrop of Arsenal’s transfer interest.
Aubameyang quickly moved over the Dortmund debacle in England, scoring 54 goals in his first 85 Premier League games and earning the armband under Unai Emery. But this narrative changed quickly under Arteta. Aubameyang believes Arteta exploited his late return from a permitted overseas vacation in December 2021 as an easy pretext to oust him. He was one of Arsenal‘s highest-paid players when the team was trying to rebuild around younger players. He forfeited money to end his contract and go with Barcelona because he was anxious to use his scoring prowess in a new team and league.
When Potter was asked about Aubameyang’s minutes, he replied: “Every player should understand their situation and be treated with respect. Then it’s their decision how to act, and he has acted fantastically.
“We have got Joao, we have Kai, we have got David (Datro Fofana, another January arrival). We thought we wanted to get more of a look at them in the short term.
“But that’s not to say it’s a terminal situation for Pierre. We had to be honest with him and give him time. That was why he was out of the previous match. But while he is here, it’s not to say that will always be the case.”
He simply informed Aubameyang that he wants more youth in attack with Kai Havertz and newcomer Joao Felix during their conversation at the club’s Cobham training facility. Potter has also adopted a conciliatory stance in public, stressing that the door is still open for him to play more first-team minutes for the rest of the season.
“We depend on him and will not achieve any of our objectives without him. If Aubameyang is in top form, we are confident of scoring goals at any given moment” — Thomas Tuchel, September 2022
When the Champions League round-of-16 draw was announced in November, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hoped for a better reunion with his previous team Borussia Dortmund than the one he had had with Thomas Tuchel, who had been his head coach at the German team, when he had come to Chelsea.
Remarkably, neither of them faced the Yellow-wall as Chelsea lost 1-0 away from home. Meanwhile, Potter and his team will be intending to make up for this gap when the visitors arrive at Stamford Bridge.
Aubameyang still views himself as a top goal scorer with the ability to make a difference on the biggest platforms in sports. He thought his 11 goals in 17 La Liga games during the second part of last season at Barcelona served as a reminder of that. In the past, their head coach, Xavi, has referred to him as “a gift from heaven,” and in September, he expressed grief over the France-born Gabon international leaving to join Chelsea. Additionally, Aubameyang felt that he had done enough during his brief stay at Camp Nou to dispel the unfair perception of him as an unruly troublemaker. This perception was formed during his final months at Dortmund and dominated the narrative surrounding his acrimonious departure from Arsenal four years later.
Narratives significantly influence a player’s mental state, which in turn influences form. Aubameyang had a great story to tell about himself, both as a player and as a person. Providing a man a chance to erase the stain from his name is a good enough cause to select him over some wounded players.