There is no denying the importance of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to the current Arsenal side. The 30-year-old striker has been the Gunners’ main man since joining the club in January 2018 from Borussia Dortmund.
Aubameyang went on to win the Premier League Golden Boot during the 2018/19 campaign and is the second-highest goalscorer in the ongoing season. His goals have often been the difference-maker for Arsenal, who would be in a much worse position than they are in currently without their captain.
But with his contract expiring in a year, Aubameyang has been heavily linked with an exit from the Emirates Stadium. With clubs lining up to sign him, it seems inevitable that the 30-year-old will be on his way out.
And Arsenal will need to replace the Gabonese international with a prolific goalscorer. Enter Celtic star Odsonne Edouard. The Frenchman has been in fine form the past couple of seasons and is now being touted as the man to replace Aubameyang at the Emirates.
Edouard spent the early part of his youth career at the Bobigny Football Academy, before French heavyweights Paris Saint-Germain came calling in 2011. The striker’s rise through the youth ranks at the French capital club was rapid to say the least.
Having plundered goals year after year, the Frenchman was named the club’s best academy player in 2015/16 and had earned the nickname of ‘Rocket’ for his goalscoring prowess that had seen him plunder over 60 goals in two years.
Around the same time, the striker led France to the U17 European Championship triumph in 2015, finishing as the leading goalscorer in the tournament while also winning the Golden Ball. The hat-trick in the 4-1 rout of Germany in the final was one of his standout performances.
Naturally, Edouard began to make waves in France and in Europe, but with no pathway to the first-team at PSG, he joined fellow French outfit Toulouse on a season-long loan in 2016. That didn’t out go down too well for the striker as he was involved in a bizarre drive-by shooting with an airsoft gun in March 2017, which led to Toulouse washing their hands off him.
At just 19, Edouard’s career had hit a low. In many ways, this incident turned out to be the catalyst in his career, as he moved out of France to join Celtic on loan in 2017 in order to get his career back on track.
In his debut season in Scotland, Edouard bagged 11 goals in 29 matches, doing enough to impress Celtic to invest in him permanently.
Success at Celtic
From that point on, there has been no looking back for the Frenchman.
With Moussa Dembele leaving the club in 2018, Edouard became the leader of the attacking contingent and the youngster stepped up to the responsibility admirably, bagging 22 goals and assisting eight more in 52 matches, including strikes in the Scottish FA Cup semi-finals and finals. He was one of Celtic’s best players as they completed a hat-trick of domestic trebles.
In the 2019/20 campaign, the 22-year-old has taken his game up a notch. With the season yet to be completed, Edouard has already plundered 27 goals and assisted 19 more goals in 45 matches across all competitions, putting Celtic firmly on-track for another domestic treble.
In almost three years with the Hoops, including the season-long loan, Edouard has won two Scottish Premiership titles, two Scottish FA Cups and three Scottish League Cups.
While one may argue that Celtic have little in terms of challengers on the domestic scene, it must be noted that Rangers have been investing in the squad heavily of late and built a strong team under the management of Steven Gerrard.
Read | Who could stay or leave this summer? Arsenal’s squad assessed
But the Hoops have managed to stay ahead of their arch-rivals, and that is partly down to Edouard’s prolific form.
What makes Edouard special?
As can be seen from his numbers at Celtic and throughout his youth career, Edouard has been an absolutely prolific goalscorer. While his clinical nature in front of the goal is his biggest weapon, which makes the 22-year-old such a valuable asset to a team is his all-round gameplay.
A very intelligent forward, Edouard has that knack of knowing when to play off the shoulders of the defenders and when to drop off and get involved in build-up play. Able to hold up the ball with his back to the goal, the striker is a sharp passer as well. He is also known for his off-the-ball work-rate and is not shy of putting in the hard yards defensively.
In his burgeoning career, the Frenchman has also played with great tactical understanding. The fact that he has excelled playing as a lone striker, while also forging a solid partnership with Leigh Griffiths when playing as part of a two-pronged strikeforce is indicative of his flexibility.
Having been part of title-winning teams, the 22-year-old has already developed the taste for trophies and a winning mentality. The fact that he was able to put the drive-by shooting incident behind him and get his career back on track in such tremendous fashion also gives an indicator of the Frenchman’s character.
Edouard is blessed with pace and power, possesses a strong physique, but most of all is a cold-blooded finisher. And at the end of the day, that is what any team wants from their strikers – goals.
What have his coaches said?
Jean-Claude Giuntini worked with Edouard for close to four years, from the France U-16 to the France U-19 levels. Having worked with the youngster in his formative years, the 63-year-old had a key hand in shaping up his game.
"He had the confidence and the obsession with scoring all great strikers need. He never doubts his qualities. He had an excellent sense of anticipation which gave him a remarkable ability to read play. And he had a considerable skill for shooting - his efforts were targeted, precise and powerful."
Brendan Rodgers, who was the one who brought Edouard to Celtic in 2017 and then signed him permanently a year later, never stopped waxing lyrical about the striker.
“I find myself applauding due to the sheer quality that he possesses, which is incredible. He also has a great footballing brain and technique for such a young player.”
“He has got that aura about him. He's just magnificent. He's just an unbelievable player. Odsonne's just a special talent,” says his current manager Neil Lennon.
As things stand, it seems like Edouard’s time at Celtic is nearing an end. Not only Arsenal, but the likes of Leicester City and Everton have also been linked with a move for the 22-year-old heading into the summer transfer window.
It will be interesting to see if he decides to jump on a chance to move to the Premier League or stay put in Scotland. But, one thing is for certain - the Airsoft gun shooting is part of a dark past and Edouard has a bright future ahead of him.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Andy Buchanan
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