Position: Attacking Midfielder/Striker
Club/Nation: AS Saint Etienne/Gabon
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should go to the Africa Cup of Nations in buoyant mood. The 22-year-old has recently signed a permanent deal for AS Saint Etienne, who exercised their right-to-buy option from AC Milan after the Gabonese youngster’s impressive first half of the season.
Aubameyang had been keen to stay at the club saying: “I am really attracted to the club. There is the atmosphere, the Cauldron, the history of ASSE too. I get along with all the staff. I will continue to give my all for the club. Now my ambition is to continue in the same vein in the second half of the season”.
Despite, coming through the AC Milan youth ranks and signing professional terms at 17, Aubameyang never played for the Rossoneri. A series of loans to the Ligue 1 and Ligue 2 have seen him play for Dijon, Lille and Monaco on loan before arriving at les Verts a year ago. This season has seen Aubameyang be Saint Etienne’s top striker with six goals and four assists in Ligue 1 coming in 19 appearances. Whilst not prolific, the Gabonese is often be asked to play in a more attacking midfield role, feeding off or supporting the main striker. To be the club’s top scorer from this position reflects his good form.
Aubameyang likes to cut inside from the right, using his pace. His pace and ability also allows him to beat the full-back on the outside and cross the ball into the centre, and he has attempted 61 passes in Ligue 1 this season. His preference though may be more for a short passing game (319 passes completed out of 456) and the through ball to his strike partner. One aspect that teams benefit from is Aubameyang’s liking for tackling and the defensive side of his game – perhaps reflected by the fact he has completed five out of seven long ball passes to date. His height at 1.85m may help with his defensive side, but he has completed 28 tackles, 18 interceptions and 12 clearances for his club. Such has been his form, Aubameyang is the only outfield player to have started every game for les Verts this season until his departure for the tournament.
Whilst born in France, Aubameyang qualifies to play for Gabon through his father Pierre, former captain of the Panthers. Aubameyang and two of his brothers, Willy and Catilina, were in the Gabon provisional squad but only Pierre-Emerick was selected for the final 23-man squad. Aubameyang has scored five goals in 19 appearances for the Azingo Nationale since his debut in 2009. Gabon tend to use his pace as a secondary striker, feeding off the more traditional burly forward play of Roguy Meye.
As co-hosts for the 2012 tournament, the Gabonese will hope that Aubameyang can bring his good club form to the tournament, and get Gabon off to a good start in Libreville against Niger on the January 23.