As the transfer market intensifies with rumours of Romelu Lukaku’s move to Manchester United, we take an in-depth look at five in-demand forwards across Europe, and compare them to some of the best goal-scorers from the 2016/17 season.
Note: When mentioning Europe, we are comparing a specific player against all statistics taken from the EPL, La Liga, Serie A, Ligue 1, Bundesliga and Portuguese Primeira Liga.
With a move to China in the balance and rumours of AC Milan holding out for the perfect opportunity to pounce on the player that came through their youth system, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the highest-scoring forward demanding attention at the moment.
His 31 league goals earned him the Bundesliga top-scorer crown, and a further nine goals in the UEFA Champions League and German Cup brought him to his highest-ever tally across all competitions, at 40 from 46 appearances.
The Gabon international’s strongest attributes were his predatory instincts around the penalty box, his ability to consistently hit the target and electric pace to get in-behind defences and place the finishing touches to counter-attacks.
Aubameyang was Europe’s most prolific scorer inside the six-yard box in domestic competitions, alongside another player who will feature later on in this series, with 12 of his 31 Bundesliga goals coming from within six yards.
Conversely, he was very much limited to finishes inside the area, attempting just 14 shots from outside the box and scoring with none of them in the Bundesliga.
Aubameyang also proved to be one of the most economical shooters of the ball in Europe, hitting the target with every 0.56 shots (65 shots on target from 116 attempts in 32 appearances).
By comparison, his Bundesliga rival Robert Lewandowski hit the target at a rate of every 0.39 shots (56 shots on target from 143 attempts in 33 appearances).
While it may appear that those numbers are embellished by Aubameyang’s penchant for close-range shooting, he actually attempted less shots inside the 18-yard area than Lewandowski (Aubameyang – 102, Lewandowski – 121), while the Polish forward made only eight more attempts from outside the area than Aubameyang over the course of the season (Aubameyang – 14, Lewandowski – 22).
Aubameyang was also one of Europe’s most ambidextrous finishers, scoring nine of his Bundesliga goals with his non-preferred foot, a number only matched by Lewandowski.
16 right-footed strikes and six headed goals complete a share of finishes that displays Aubameyang’s all-rounded qualities up front, while his 21 goals from open play puts him in an elite bracket, as only seven other players managed 20 or more from open play in Europe.
At 28 years old, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is at the peak of his powers and should be plying his trade in the UEFA Champions League next season, but it appears that Tianjin Quanjian’s reported €30 million salary has persuaded him to continue his career in the Far East.