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Can Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang compare to Thierry Henry?

aubameyang arsenal

Arsenal’s capture of Borussia Dortmund star Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was the big signing of the January transfer window, and the £56 million forward has wasted no time in expressing his admiration for the club, and his desire to emulate its greatest player of the Premier League era, Thierry Henry, suggesting that they have some qualities in common.

As far as Arsenal fans are concerned, the most desirable quality that Aubameyang might share with Henry is a habit of picking up silverware. Henry won six trophies with Arsenal, including two Premier League titles, and the Gabonese star will have an early opportunity to claim an honour with the Gunners, when he takes to the field against Manchester City in the Carabao Cup final later this month, though according to many online bookmakers, Arsenal are the underdog to win the season’s first domestic title.

How seriously should we take these Henry comparisons? There are certain similarities, besides the fact that they both have a French background. Henry had a reputation for speed, and so does Aubameyang. If anything, Aubameyang is slightly quicker than Henry, having been timed at 3.7 seconds over 30 metres, though at the age of 28 he may not be as quick as he was.

Their style of play is also fairly similar. Henry was one of the first players in English football to operate as a striker and a winger, often in the same game. His technical brilliance and speed enabled him to switch between roles, stretching and opening up defences, yet he didn’t sacrifice any of his goalscoring touch. It is a template copied by many subsequent European strikers, including Aubameyang, who can play wide or centrally.

There is also an aesthetic similarity in the way they go about their business. Henry, even at top speed or in single-minded pursuit of a goal, somehow never looked hurried, and managed to bring a touch of elegance to everything he did on a football field. Aubameyang doesn’t achieve quite the same level of languid brilliance, but there is an effortless quality to his play that enables him to make the game look easy, and this will endear him to Arsenal fans who were spoilt by the presence of Henry and the great Dennis Bergkamp in the 2000s.

The main role of a striker, of course, is to score goals. In this area also, Henry and Aubameyang are well matched; in fact, on some figures, you could say that Aubameyang has a slight edge. Over the course of his career, he has scored at a rate of 0.50 goals per game, while Henry’s figure is slightly lower at 0.46 goals per game.

thierry henry arsenal

It is worth pointing out, however, that Henry’s impact in the Premier League was much higher and worked out at 0.68 goals per game, the third highest figure of all Premier League goalscorers to have found the net 100 times, and slightly better than the 0.66 goals per game that Aubameyang recorded during his four seasons at Borussia Dortmund.

The most obvious major difference between the two players is the respective ages at which they began their Arsenal career. Henry moved to London at 21 with most of his career ahead of him. By contrast, Aubameyang is 28 and at his peak. While he has the potential to provide Arsenal fans with several seasons worth of entertainment, he is unlikely to show the same degree of improvement that the Arsenal faithful saw in Henry, who matured from promising youngster to all-time great while at the club.

The other significant difference between the two is their willingness to work hard for the team. Arsène Wenger himself alluded to this when addressing the Aubameyang-Henry similarities recently, admitting that the two players had some things in common, but pointing out that Henry tracked back more readily, and got himself involved in the game when required, rather than waiting to be supplied with chances. Even Aubameyang himself has acknowledged that this is one area of his game that he needs to work on.

For Arsenal fans, the priority is to halt the club’s slide and to return to the top four. If Aubameyang can play a role in that improvement, he will carve out a special place for himself in the Arsenal pantheon. Whether he can achieve the more difficult task of replacing the legendary Henry in the affections of Arsenal fans remains to be seen.

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