Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang notched up another major career milestone when he scored his first Premier League hat-trick in Arsenal’s game against Leeds United.
The Gunners captain cut in off the left flank to raid home the opener inside the first quarter-hour at the Emirates Stadium, before restoring from the penalty spot just before the break after Bukayo Saka was fouled by Allan Meslier.
Hector Bellerin slotted home a third on the stroke of half-time, but it was Aubameyang who wrote himself a new chapter after he headed home Emile Smith Rowe’s cross at the far post after the restart in north London, to take him to 200 goals across Europe’s top five leagues.
The Arsenal captain’s first start since January 18th proclaimed a goal glut: a hat-trick for the Gabonese striker alone as Mikel Arteta’s men returned to winning ways with this win over Leeds.
Having been given compassionate leave to care for his unwell mother, Aubameyang made up for his absence in strong fashion on Sunday.
Thankfully his mother is on the mend – her son’s goal ratio has also improved rather after this.
It’s 11 for the season for Aubameyang now – his trio of strikes firing himself back to the top of the club’s goalscoring charts.
But after what has been a below-par season for their star striker so far, Aubameyang’s return to form could mean something far more significant than the three points he secured here.
Credit to Leeds, even at 4-0 down – mainly down to Illan Meslier’s calamitous show – Marcelo Bielsa’s side kept punching.
They halved the drought by full time and had referee Stuart Atwell pointed to the spot when Patrick Bamford fell into the box under Cedric Soares’ rash challenge in the closing stages then perhaps they’d have completed the unlikeliest of comebacks.
But that would have been tough on Arsenal, who were by and large far superior as they receded to winning ways following two successive defeats.
Their performance was bright and intended. Not quite the swagger we relate with Arsenal teams of the past – but a marked difference from the workmanlike sacrifices we’ve grown accustomed to this season.
Arsenal, however, didn’t have wait long for a bonafide spot-kick. Again it was Saka who was being an irritant.
Meslier should have cleared his lines when collecting the ball from Cooper but instead, he dawdled. And then dawdled some more.
Saka wasn’t in the mood for any dawdling as he seized Meslier’s attempts to clear in the 40th minute.
Saka, inevitably, was at the heart of it as he ran the length of the penalty area before locating Aubameyang, whose cross created havoc in the Leeds area.
There was no redemption for Leeds this time as Atwell, for the second time pointed to the spot.
Aubameyang made no mistake, shoving the hapless Meslier the wrong way.
The Leeds keeps wanted the ground to choke him up there and then; unfortunately he wasn’t that lucky.
Arsenal added a third before half time and again there were serious reservations about Meslier’s goalkeeping.
Once more Leeds were there own worst enemy – Costa’s first relating contribution was to be dispossessed by Soares deep in his half to allow Smith Rowe and Aubameyang to combine.
Game over? Not quite
Leeds pulled a goal back through Pascal Struijk’s bullet header in the 58th minute before Costa fired home fellow substitute Roberts’ cross in the 69th minute to make things interesting.
But the damage was done – Aubameyang and Meslier saw to that.