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What does Lewandowski’s signing mean for Aubameyang at Barcelona

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Over the last half a decade, Barcelona have splashed a ton of cash on forwards. Most of whom have turned out to be a shadow of their own previous selves.

Among these are centre-forwards like Martin Braithwaite, Sergio Aguero, Antoine Griezmann, Luuk de Jong, Memphis Depay, and most recently Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

With the exception of Auba, it can be argued that every other name on that list has been a miss. The Gabonese international, however, hit the ground running almost as soon as he joined, scoring 11 goals in 17 league games.

And while he has shown little sign of slowing down, the plug on his tenure could be pulled early as Barcelona have announced the signing of Robert Lewandowski.

The Pole has been the top scorer in Europe in the last five seasons, by some distance, and joins the Catalans on a four-year deal for €45 million, plus €5 million in add-ons.

Not only are his goal-scoring numbers are mind-boggling, but his style of play also fits Barcelona much better than Aubameyang. Lewa holds up the ball much better, can anchor the attack brilliantly, and has the eye for a pass.

Consequently, we are left thinking, “What does this mean for Auba?” The 33-year-old has said he’s open to competition, but can he warrant a spot over someone nicknamed LewanGOALski? Probably not.

As such, Barça Universal assesses the cards left on his table.

A switch in position

While a striker by trade, Aubameyang has also played as a winger for several of his previous teams, most recently Arsenal.

He was mostly ineffective in that role, though, as it often required him to move to the touchline and dictate the play from the flank with the ball rather than in the box. There have been rumours stating that this was another reason for his rift with Mikel Arteta.

However, during his presentation at Barcelona, Auba openly suggested the idea of playing on the wing ‘if the coach needed it’.

Xavi often uses a dynamic off-the-ball and runner on the wing to complement a creator on the other side. Ferran Torres/Ansu Fati on the left with Ousmane Dembele on the right was one of the examples.

Aubameyang may not be a touchline dribbler like Arteta wanted at Arsenal, but he is definitely an excellent interpreter of space.

He can run off the shoulder of the last defender to latch on to a through-ball from the wing. Auba is next-to-impossible to catch given his incredible pace, which when complemented with his finishing can be a huge asset for the club.

Reunited and it feels so good! (Photo by CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP via Getty Images)

It will also effectively create space for Lewandowski, who can find ample room in the box for a cross or a rebound.

The left-wing will likely be contested between Ferran Torres and Ansu Fati but Auba could have a genuine shot at it.

Torres, while extremely clever with his runs, has lacked the finishing touch Barça desperately need. On the contrary, Fati boasts of sublime poaching skills, but has been troubled with injuries.

A much-needed deputy in a long season

Much thanks to FIFA, the 2022/23 season has the potential to be the most troublesome one ever. The campaign goes live in the second week of August, and will be paused in November for the World Cup in Qatar.

The players will return from international duty in the last week of December, and will resume club duties almost immediately.

It does not take Sherlock to predict that the next season will be headlined by injuries and fatigue. For clubs like Barcelona, especially, who could end up sending all but one of their forwards, 2022/23 could end up taking a turn for the worse.

Luckily, Gabon are not part of the World Cup and Aubameyang will be staying back in Barcelona. For the second half of the season, the 33-year-old will be used much more often, especially to give rest to the likes of Lewandowski, Dembele, and Fati.

Having two elite goalscorers in Lewandowski and Aubameyang in the squad is a luxury Barcelona will have next season, and with adequate rotation, it can prove to be devastating.

Push for a move away during the next window(s)

Should the above two options not work out well enough for Aubameyang, he of course has the choice to push for an exit in the winter or next summer.

He is on a five-year deal, but Barcelona have the option to terminate his contract after the 2022/23 season. That definitely makes the job easier, but it will not be surprising if the former Arsenal captain decides to move away himself.

Aubameyang has proven that despite being 33, he is still capable of leading a frontline. He has not lost his pace, and in fact, has added to his game in the form of improved passing and anchor play.

That said, the ex-Borussia Dortmund forward is due for an automatic raise at Barcelona. It seems rather improbable that he will leave the club willingly, at 34 no less, to presumably join a club on a lower salary.

Either way, for at least the better part of next season, Barcelona will host two decorated veterans of football, and they should be treated as such.

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