Pitchside

Electric Aubameyang looks ready to replace Lewandowski

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It looks like Borussia Dortmund have found their replacement for Robert Lewandowski already.

He's quick, powerful, has a great nose for goal. Adrian Ramos, you cry? Well, perhaps they will sign him next summer, but it seems to me the answer is already at the club.

He's called Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Yes, Ramos is having a great season, but his previous best top-flight tally was 10 goals in his maiden Bundesliga campaign and he scored six in 31 games in 2011/12.

Admittedly, those Hertha Berlin sides were hardly world-beaters - and he was relegated in both previous 1. Bundesliga seasons - but from what I have seen of Ramos he does not have the quality and consistency to make a Dortmund player, and - at 28 already - is a relative dinosaur compared to the targets sporting director Michael Zorc usually pinpoints.

The opposite must be said of Aubameyang, whose double against Eintracht Frankfurt last weekend - which followed hot on the heels of his Pokal winner against the same opponents in the week leading up to the league game - merely confirmed the view he can succeed Lewandowski and perhaps even improve on him just as the Pole was an upgrade on Lucas Barrios.

Not 25 until June, the Gabon international has an obvious age advantage over Ramos, but while there remains a question mark over whether the Colombia international can step up to the stratospheric grade required at the Signal Iduna Park, Aubameyang has already made that leap.

His 13 league goals - only one fewer than Lewandowski and Ramos - have come from one fewer Bundesliga game than the duo ahead of him, and from only seven full league matches.

Even without nit-picking over time on the pitch, a return of 16 goals from 29 appearances in all competitions is more than impressive, particularly for a man in his debut season in Germany.

Admittedly, Lewandowski arrived from a weaker league than Aubameyang when he signed for Dortmund in 2010, but he managed just nine goals in 43 competitive outings in his maiden campaign.

Of course, the former Lech Poznan man is a rather more formidable beast now, and was played out of position - behind Barrios - or as a bit-part replacement for the Paraguayan in his early Dortmund days, but Aubameyang has claimed his goals from a wide position in Juergen Klopp's 4-2-3-1.

You wonder how many he would get should he be at the forefront of the attack, where he registered 19 for Saint-Etienne in Ligue 1 last season, particularly given his apparent burgeoning understanding with Henrikh Mkhitaryan, as witnessed by the opening goal versus Frankfurt.

It has all the hallmarks of the partnerships struck up by Barrios and Lewandowski with Shinji Kagawa and Mario Goetze.

As well as his Usain Bolt-esque pace, Aubameyang has a happy knack of scoring important goals - his first strike against Frankfurt was his eighth opening goal of a league match this season - even though he does have room for improvement.

Given free rein and few defensive duties at Saint-Etienne, he has already been indoctrinated into Dortmund's suffocating pressing game.

"The whole coaching staff have spoken to me quite a lot and explained a lot of things so that I'm better defensively," he said this week - and his self-sacrifice on behalf of the team was evident in his racing back to apprehend Alex Meier on Saturday, "despite Meier having a 40-metre headstart" as Klopp stated admiringly.

The Dortmund boss, whom Aubameyang told kicker with some amusement remains likely to be "bewildered" by some of the former AC Milan prodigy's more outlandish hairstyles, has clearly also pointed out another weakness.

"My strength is my speed," Aubameyang also told the German football magazine. "I need to work on play in tight areas."

That shortcoming no doubt explains Klopp's decision to play his summer signing in a slightly withdrawn position, giving him more space into which he can tear forward.

But Klopp is also aware his jet-heeled asset has one other precious commodity. "It's easier to teach the things which are not optimal than to teach someone to be dangerous in front of goal. He has the goalscoring instinct in him," the Dortmund boss told Kicker, a statement backed up by Aubameyang's second goal against Frankfurt for which he just stepped away from goalkeeper Kevin Trapp to create the space needed should the ball drop to him.

It may have been an ugly goal, but it was a goalscorer's goal. If the defence required further evidence, then the name of the only man to finish ahead of Aubameyang in the Ligue 1 scoring stakes last season should be sufficient: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (sorry if that hurt, Leverkusen fans).

"Lewandowski needed and got time to get to an exceptional level in Dortmund. Why shouldn't we find a player who will follow the same path?" replied Aubameyang when asked whether the club could find a replacement for his soon-to-be ex-team-mate.

There is more than a suggestion he himself is already on the right track.

Ian Holyman - @ian_holyman

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