Aubameyang vs Koulibaly: The fate of the furious

For years, the UEFA Europa League has been counted as a second fiddle tournament with little to offer in terms of excitement to the biggest of European clubs. Gone are the days when the tournament was looked down upon and now the level of competition in different leagues has improved, forcing clubs like Arsenal, Chelsea and Napoli to participate in the tournament. The UEFA Europa League draw was held on Friday, 12 March, 2019 and it presented one of the biggest showdowns of the competition, let alone in Europe. Arsenal was matched up with Naples’ Napoli, a fixture that both teams were hoping to avoid. We look into it, focusing on the two best players from the two teams. Arsenal’s striker versus Napoli’s defender. It’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang versus Kalidou Koulibaly. Check this out.

If Aubameyang is the Black Panther, then Koulibaly has to be the Killmonger to the story because the battle boils down to these two. Who will take the throne when these two meet?
— Tinotenda Magiya, FirstTouch Africa

As expected, Pierre Emerick Aubameyang is Arsenal’s top goal scorer at this stage of the season with 21 goals in all competitions with 4 being from the UEFA Europa League tournament. He has been used interchangeably with Alexandre Lacazette but still has the knack for goals and delivers under pressure. It is expected that he will bring his A game against the monstrous beast of a defender in Kalidou Koulibaly.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the Premier League match between Cardiff City and Arsenal FC at Cardiff City Stadium on September 2, 2018 in Cardiff, United Kingdom.  (Sept. 1, 2018 - Source: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images Europe)

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Arsenal celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the Premier League match between Cardiff City and Arsenal FC at Cardiff City Stadium on September 2, 2018 in Cardiff, United Kingdom.

(Sept. 1, 2018 - Source: Catherine Ivill/Getty Images Europe)

In the same vein, Koulibaly has been a leader from the back at the Naples club. Koulibaly is raking up an average of 4 clearances and 2.3 blocks per match in this competition. He will be looking to shutout the goal threat in the Gabonese International who is proving a nuisance to defenders in every league he goes to. This could be a true test for both.

Also, if you had not picked it up already, both players hail from the land of Africa. Pierre Emerick Aubameyang leads the frontline for Gabon while Koulibaly takes up defensive duties for Senegal. Both players will be looking to compete for a title as they warm up for this year's African Cup of Nations 2019 tournament to be held in Egypt. Amongst them, could be a possible African Player of the Year if they do well in both ties as well as putting in stellar performances in Africa's finest tournament. I wouldn't want to miss this.

Finally, their personalities are quite the opposite. They remind me of the debate about Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. One is more quiet and less expressive on the pitch with the other taking pride in making headlines from controversial goal celebrations. Koulibaly is a more reserved guy who lets his defending do the talking. He is someone who easily stands out in a match with his presence and contribution in the first third of the pitch. Whereas, Aubameyang has some fine goals in his locker which he often celebrates with a front-flip or pulling out some super-hero mask. Recently, the Arsenal striker pulled out the mask of the Black Panther and celebrated his goal in wakanda-style. If Aubameyang is the Black Panther, then Koulibaly has to be the Killmonger to the story because the battle boils down to these two. Who will take the throne when these two meet?

I think Arsenal vs Napoli came too soon but it will be a great spectacle. Especially to see these two players go toe to toe against each other in their quest for titles. My bet is on Aubameyang. Where is yours?