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The Evolution of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

By Ted Knutson | March 30, 2016 | Main

As you might have noticed, I am all up in ur website this week. For those who don't know me, I co-founded this here site here and still own it, though Managing Editor James Yorke is responsible for all the good stuff on the front page and hard work behind the scenes.

Until last week, I was working for Brentford and Midtjylland football clubs on a variety of things, including player analysis and recruitment. However, that is no more, which gives me the time and ability to write new pieces here at Ye Auld Bomb. I don't know how long I will be around, but while I am available, I intend to make the most of it.

If you have missed the recent flood of content, they can be found in the two links below and also on my twitter account @mixedknuts.

Design Diary - MK Shot Maps
The Dortmund Attack and the Spurs Defense

In the two pieces above, I introduced the MK Shot Map variation, and then showed how they can be used to analyse team trends. In the Dortmund analysis it is between two different managers, while at Spurs it is impressively all under Pochettino, but in consecutive seasons.

Today we're going to apply the same shot map format to player analysis.

The Not So Little PEA
Back in summer 2013 - in fact right at the beginning of when I started using statistics to do player evaluation - I dubbed Aubameyang the best value buy of the summer. My tools were primitive at the time (and so was some of the analysis), but 19 goals and 9 assists in a season at Saint Etienne seemed impressive enough, especially for an alleged price of €13M. I expected him to go for twice that.

Dortmund fans didn't seem terribly impressed by his first season, but he put up excellent scoring numbers for the time played in a far more difficult league than Ligue 1.


The next season was Klopp's wonky final one where the team was extremely unlucky in a lot of respects, and everyone's performance suffered a bit overall. However, these are still good numbers for a forward.


Then you hit this season... Thomas Tuchel arrived and brought with him some serious adjustments to the traditional Dortmund attack. As I illustrated yesterday, all the potshots from range are gone. Instead you get tight clustering inside the box, almost reminiscent of the dominant Barcelona teams. That is a hugely impressive transformation in just a single season.

Also hugely impressive is Auba's evolution. He has transformed into an elite center forward and now ranks among the Top 5 in Europe for Scoring Contribution among high volume players. I don't have the radar generator hooked up to current data just yet, but an NPG90 of .78 and a total scoring contribution of right around 1 is fantastic.

With the change in statistical output also came a change in Auba's shot profile. Check this out.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang2013

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang2014

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang_2015-16

And here are the three seasons at Dortmund, side-by-side-by-side (which is how comparatives should generally be posted, but I put up the individual ones for others to use on their own).

(Click to embiggen.)


Where did all the triangles go? And the shots from long and wide? In their place we see a huge swathe of high value chances, all in the center of the pitch. The expected goal model used here probably underestimates the quality of the chances Auba was getting in earlier seasons, since he is one of the fastest players in the league and likely was under less pressure then. However, you can't deny he transitioned from occasionally getting good chances to almost constantly doing so.

The result of this evolution also completed his transformation from a very good pace goalscorer to one of the best center forwards in the game.

Though honestly, what's truly incredible is that he still manages to find time to fight crime on the side.

Dortmund's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, right, wears a Spiderman mask as he celebrates after scoring his side's second goal during the German soccer Super Cup match between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich in Dortmund, Germany, Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Sascha Schuermann)


Article by Ted Knutson