Gabonese Aubameyang in vintage form and lifting Marseille back up Ligue 1 ladder

AP , Thursday 14 Dec 2023

Considered past his use by date, former Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has recaptured his best form and lifted Gennaro Gattuso’s resurgent Marseille back into the French league race.

Marseille s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, centre, challenges to score his side s third goal past Lyon s goalkeeper Anthony Lopes, left, during the French League One soccer match between Olympique de Marseille and Lyon at the Velodrome Stadium in Marseille, France, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023. AP


Aubameyang was whistled at by Marseille fans last month when they were losing patience during a lackluster goalless draw at home. Since then, the 34-year-old Gabon striker has been scoring for fun and silenced his critics with spectacular goals.

He had seven goals in four games in all competitions before Marseille’s Europa League game against Brighton late Thursday.

That impressive form has driven the Mediterranean club up to sixth place in the Ligue 1, nine points behind second-placed Nice. Paris Saint-Germain has a four-point lead at the top going into this weekend's round.

Marseille is unbeaten in its last four matches, including three consecutive wins. Marseille hosts Clermont on Sunday at Stade Velodrome. PSG is at Lille, and Nice visits Le Havre.

Gattuso was a gritty, commanding midfielder when AC Milan signed Aubameyang in 2007 as a promising 18-year-old forward. His time in northern Italy didn’t work out but he and Gattuso are reunited 15 years later, attempting to challenge for Champions League slots next season.

With 12 goals in 21 games overall, Aubameyang has been contributing a lot to drag Marseille back up the league table after an inconsistent start to the campaign marred by poor results and tensions between management and supporters.

Aubameyang joined on a free transfer last summer and initially struggled to adapt to his new environment. Previously the top scorer in Germany and England, Aubameyang scored just once in his first 12 games with the nine-time French champion but never lost his coach's confidence.

“I’ll do everything to ensure Pierre reacts," Gattuso said when Aubameyang looked a shadow of his old self.

By changing his tactical system, the Marseille coach largely contributed to his protege's comeback.

Gattuso seems to have ditched his plans of playing with a four-man defense and has switched to a more flexible three-man central defense with greater scope for wide players, and allowing Vitinha to support Aubameyang up front.

The shift has paid off. Aubameyang is clinical again, scoring four times from just six attempts this month, compared to one goal from 30 shots earlier this season.

According to Ligue 1 statistics, Aubameyang’s streak of scoring in three consecutive league games is his best since September 2019, when he was at Arsenal.

“It may be incredible to you, but not to me,” Gattuso said after Aubameyang's brace in a 4-2 win at Lorient last weekend.

A tireless runner during his midfield heyday, Gattuso is well placed to recognize a hard-working player.

“In my career and as a coach, I’ve come across a lot of players. I can tell you that he’s a true professional," Gattuso insisted. "He’s serious and hard-working. If you want to stay in good shape at 34, you have to work on your leg strength. He benefits from his work. I told him his time would come. The moment has arrived. We’re seeing the real Pierre-Emerick. It couldn’t be any other way.”

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