Aubameyang to Chelsea: After £255m spree, is striker the final piece?


The signing of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, for £10m, from Barcelona on transfer deadline day provides a firm full stop on the answer.

Chelsea have spent £255.3m this summer, according to financial services firm Deloitte, signing Wesley Fofana, Marc Cucurella, Raheem Sterling, Kalidou Koulibaly, Carney Chukwuemeka and Gabriel Slonina.

They also added defensive midfielder Denis Zakaria on loan from Juventus.

Their summer outlay is the second highest single transfer window spend in Europe, behind Real Madrid's 'Eden Hazard' summer of 2019.

Chelsea have signed a raft of players across a wide range of ages, positions and experience.

It is indicative of a transfer policy based on aggression, impatience and a need to catch up after early delays caused by the impact of last season's sanctions imposed upon former Russian owner Abramovich following his country's invasion of Ukraine.

Manager Thomas Tuchel spoke earlier in the summer of his "intense" relationship with Boehly and fellow directors as they sent each other messages on a daily basis, attempting to overcome their enforced slow start in the transfer market.

All this raises the question as to what Chelsea's plan has been in this transfer window, and exactly where Aubameyang fits in that.

The 33-year-old has impressed at Barcelona since joining from Arsenal on a free transfer in January, scoring 13 goals in 24 appearances. However, amid the La Liga club's well-documented financial struggles, they have been forced to sell in order to register all of their summer signings.

Spanish football expert Guillem Balague told BBC Sport: "It is a good deal for Barcelona, close to 20m euros once you count Marcos Alonso.

"It fits everyone I think. It fits Arsenal, it fits Barcelona and it fits Chelsea."

Left-back Alonso has left Chelsea by mutual consent and is expected to sign for Barcelona.

'Aubameyang could be a really clever signing'

For all the hundreds of millions of pounds spent by Chelsea in the summer, goals remain an issue.

With Romelu Lukaku shipped back to Inter Milan on loan, and losses cut on Timo Werner, who has gone to RB Leipzig, Tuchel wanted to sign an out-and-out striker.

Early season defeats by Leeds and Southampton - the latter in which they played Sterling and Kai Havertz as a front two - highlighted Tuchel's urgency.

Chelsea have scored six goals in their first five 2022-23 league games, the joint lowest with Brighton in the top half of the table. Their shot conversion rate this season is an abysmal 9.68% - ranked 11th in the Premier League this season.

Match of the Day pundit Alan Shearer feels it is a smart and necessary move.

He said: "Aubameyang could be a really clever signing. The manager knows him well and knows his character. Arsenal felt they had to get him out and that turned out to be the correct move, but he has proven he will score goals in the Premier League."

Aubameyang's time at Arsenal - and his eventual exit - cannot be ignored. Signed in January 2018, the final major arrival of the Arsene Wenger era, goals were rarely the problem as he scored 92 in 163 games across all competitions for the Gunners.

In the Premier League, he struck at a rate of better than one goal every two games. He has scored 68 goals since February 2018 in the league, the fifth best of any player during that time frame. Not bad for a man who hasn't played in England since 6 December 2021.

What was problematic was the club's malaise around him over four years, slipping out of European competition under Unai Emery amid dressing room discord. Eventually Aubameyang was moved out on a free by Emery's successor Mikel Arteta, in infamous scenes preserved for eternity by a recent Amazon documentary.

Aubameyang has been replaced in the Arsenal attack by Gabriel Jesus, assisted by a vibrant young forward force featuring Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe, Gabriel Martinelli and more.

This has fired Arsenal top of the Premier League with five wins from five, with 13 goals in the process. They have improved after selling Aubameyang. So will Chelsea really improve by buying him?

'Aren't there any younger players?'

Former Arsenal defender Matthew Upson is unconvinced.

"Auba's stock wasn't so high because of issues around Arsenal," he says. "You know he will bring goals though.

"Would Chelsea not want younger players? Are there not younger players you could make better? If Tuchel believes he can bring out the best in him, then great.

"As good as Sterling is, if they want to be competitive with the very best, they have to score 80 or 90 goals or more. They don't have that at the moment. If Aubameyang is that man, then good luck to them. I'm not totally convinced."

A key reason Chelsea have signed Aubameyang is his strong relationship with Tuchel. The German coached the Gabon forward at Borussia Dortmund between 2015 and 2017 when he was arguably at the height of his scoring powers, scoring 79 goals across 95 games in all competition.

Aubameyang may now be five years older, but Tuchel has gambled that the scoring touch is still there; his stats at Barca indicate it absolutely is. For £10m - one fifth of what Chelsea were reportedly asked by Everton for Anthony Gordon - it is a risk he will happily take.

Chelsea must also break their recent dire run of striker signings. From Fernando Torres to Gonzalo Higuain via Alvaro Morata and Radamel Falcao - not to mention the failed return of Lukaku - the number nine role at Stamford Bridge has often appeared cursed.

Those five strikers cost Chelsea more than £200m in combined transfer and loan fees. All for a grand return of 90 goals between them across all competitions.

Certainly, Tuchel needs to find an answer to Chelsea's striker problem quickly. Their poor run of form extends from the end of last season - six wins in their past 15 Premier League games - with frustrations now beginning to pour into the open.

So is Aubameyang the missing piece for Chelsea? For the sake of their season, they must hope so.