There is no shying away from the limelight by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who was still making his presence known long after the final whistle on Thursday night. As the rest of his Arsenal team-mates were showering and changing following their dismantling of Standard Liege, Aubameyang was revving the engine of his latest supercar in the bowels of the Emirates, cruising around the car park beneath the ground before returning to the players’ lounge.
Even if they could not see him, lounging behind the wheel of a Ferrari that has been wrapped in “holographic chrome”, anyone in the vicinity would have certainly heard him coming. Given the noise, it would not have been a surprise if those still inside the ground had heard him too.
Aubameyang, it seems, does not do low-key exits. Or entrances. Or anything at all, for that matter, whether it is the cars he drives, the clothes he wears or, as was the case last week, the tweets he sends. There is no shortage of moneyed Premier League footballers but Aubameyang is perhaps the most flash and brash of the lot.
The appearances are dazzling, then, but they are also deceiving. On the outside, he comes across as ostentatious and flamboyant. Within the club, though, he is increasingly one of the most grounded and supportive members of Unai Emery’s first team. Take the story that Gabriel Martinelli told last month, for example.
The 18-year-old was at the Arsenal training ground on his first day at the club following his summer move from Brazilian side Ituano, eating lunch in the club canteen on his own. Who was the first to approach this nervous kid who spoke not a single word of English? “Aubameyang arrives and sits next to me, speaking Portuguese to me, trying to communicate,” Martinelli told Globo Esporte. “The guy is so good and so humble. I was like, ‘man, Aubameyang, who I saw on TV, came to talk to me’.”
Nicolas Pepe has a story of his own, too. Arsenal were trailing to Aston Villa at the Emirates last month when they won a penalty. Aubameyang, the club’s designated penalty taker, offered it up to Pepe so the club’s record signing could score his first goal for Arsenal. Aubameyang had done the same in April 2018, turning down the chance of a hat-trick so Alexandre Lacazette could score. He has also taken Matteo Guendouzi, who joined the club as a teenager last year, under his wing.
It is these qualities, as much as his relentless goalscoring, that led to Aubameyang recently being voted Arsenal’s vice-captain by his team-mates. He has long been a leader on the pitch, scoring goals at a startling rate, but in recent months he has also embraced his role as a mentor off the field.
“Now he is more confident and more mature in the Premier League compared to when I arrived last year,” said Unai Emery. “He scored a lot of goals last year but has now also taken a big responsibility within the team. He is one of the captains who can manage the dressing room.
“I told him when he decided against Aston Villa, when we were losing, to give the penalty to Pepe for his confidence, it was an amazing decision. It showed him as a big player with big responsibility in this team.”
Aubameyang’s standing at Arsenal has been helped, obviously, by his record in front of goal.
Ahead of Sunday’s meeting with Bournemouth, he has scored eight goals in eight games this season. In the Premier League, his goals have effectively won 10 out of Arsenal’s 12 points so far. At the age of 30, last year’s joint-Golden Boot winner appears to be growing even more clinical in his finishing.
Arsenal are reliant on his goals and so is Emery. Without Aubameyang’s interventions, the patchy midfield and wobbly defence Arsenal have shown this season would have been infinitely more damaging. It is no surprise that the club are desperate for him to commit to a new contract.
It all makes for quite a contrast with the end of his time at Borussia Dortmund, when he essentially became the club rebel in an attempt to force to move.
The bad blood clearly still lingers, with Dortmund chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke this week insinuating that Aubameyang left Germany only for the money and saying the striker would be “saddened” by not playing in the Champions League.
Aubameyang’s response was typically punchy. “Better for you I never talk about why I really left Dortmund Mr Watzke,” he said on Twitter. “You are such a clown.”
If he continues leading Arsenal forward, both on the pitch and behind the scenes, then Arsenal’s supporters will be the ones laughing at the end of the season.