Losing a player of Robert Lewandowski’s calibre, especially on a free transfer to a bitter rival, is a hard pill to swallow and can be highlighted as a reason for Borussia Dortmund’s poor 2014-15 campaign.
The Polish forward’s defection to Bayern Munich robbed the Ruhr Valley outfit of a clinical edge that took 12 months to overcome.
Now, with Jürgen Klopp being replaced by Thomas Tuchel and the Signal Iduna Park outfit looking to have regained a fair percentage of their former swagger, Dortmund have a new goalscoring hero leading their line.
Despite Lewandowski’s evolution into one of the world’s best in Bavaria, the side in yellow and black also have a centre forward that must be adjudged as one of the most devastating in Europe.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has stepped up to the unenviable task of replacing the Poland international and after initial teething problems is now in full stride.
The African attacker scored again in Dortmund’s routine 4-0 win over Azerbaijani minnows Qabala on Thursday night in the Europa League, taking his personal record to 21 goals in 20 appearances in all competitions this season.
Despite not scoring five goals in nine dramatic minutes like his predecessor has this term, Aubameyang deserves just as much attention and plaudits for his ruthlessness in front of goal.
It was not until the Gabon international had the chance to play regularly at Ligue 1 sleeping giants St Etienne that he started to deliver, with his performances over a number of seasons earning him his big move to the Bundesliga in 2013.
Initially, the African star was used on the right-hand side of midfield by Klopp, who understandably looked to make the most of the star’s unbridled pace and penetration.
From this wide role Aubameyang contributed both goals and assists regularly, but it has been his move to a central position that has assisted in his development into one of German and European football’s most feared attacking proponents.
Klopp’s decision to use the Gabonese attacker as a number nine, instead of the likes of new faces Adrián Ramos and Ciro Immobile, could well be seen as the now-Liverpool manager’s final gift to the German club.
Aubameyang finished last season as Dortmund’s top scorer with 26 goals in all competitions and was a rare bright spark in an otherwise forgettable campaign for the club.
He was named as Dortmund’s player of the season, in the Bundesliga team of the year and looked ready to be a driving force in the club’s quest to reinvent itself in 2015-16.
So far this term Aubameyang has been virtually unplayable, with his link-up play with Marco Reus and Henrikh Mkhitaryan in particular captivating viewing for the Signal Iduna Park faithful.
Not only has the 26-year-old replaced the goals that Dortmund lost when Lewandowski left, but his assets as a lone frontman have helped the team’s attacking play to evolve.
Unlike the Pole, Aubameyang’s devastating pace in-behind opposition defences means that Dortmund have the ability to stretch teams and also pose a menacing threat on the counter-attack.
Much of the credit for Die Schwarzgelben’s continued scintillating football falls at the feet of the mercurial Reus or the invention of İlkay Gündoğan, but Aubameyang’s physical attributes are the incisive feature of Dortmund in the final third.
While the Bundesliga title race already looks like a one-horse race, the quest to be the German top-flight’s leading goalscorer in 2015-16 is set to be much more tightly contested.
Both Aubameyang and Lewandowski have 13 goals apiece after 11 games, with the Dortmund man showing that he can be just as lethal as his illustrious predecessor.