Perhaps influenced by the romance of the cup, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang used his programme notes ahead of Monday night’s match against Leeds United to reiterate his undying love for Arsenal amid speculation that a divorce might be in the offing. “I would also like to react to some of the rumours that are going around about me in the media,” the 30-year-old wrote.
“People like making up stories and they should focus on what’s happening on the pitch. They talk too much and it does my head in. I am the Arsenal captain. I love this club. I am committed to it and desperate to bring it back to the top, where it belongs.” For Arsenal fans fearful of losing their top scorer and best player, this must have read like poetry.
But what if Arsenal would be better off without Aubameyang? Would the sale of the brightest talent at the Emirates Stadium be the best thing for Mikel Arteta’s revolution at the club, giving the Gunners some much-needed funds to invest into other areas of the squad? Arsenal should at least entertain the idea of selling Aubameyang.
The Gabonese international might not need much pushing out the door despite his recent programme notes. A move to Spain has long been mooted for Aubameyang with the forward reportedly attracted by the shimmer of the silverware he would almost certainly win as a Barcelona or Real Madrid player.
Arsenal would surely collect a fee of close to £100 million for one of Europe’s best centre forwards.
Of course, in Alexandre Lacazette Arteta already has a proven goalscorer and frontman to build his attacking line around. In a sense, Aubameyang is something of a luxury with some questioning whether he has the work ethic to satisfy the new man in the Emirates Stadium dugout. Arteta does appear to have sold Aubameyang on his ideology, with the forward tracking back and helping out defensively, but will this newfound commitment stick?
The money Aubameyang’s sale would generate could replenish Arsenal to rebuild their defence. Calum Chambers’ injury has heightened their desperate need for defensive reinforcement, particularly in the centre back positions. Dayot Upamecano has been mentioned as a potential target and would fit the bill as a young, promising, physically-imposing, technically-able operator who has already proved himself at a high level for RB Leipzig.
Midfield is another area where Arteta is in need of players to mould in his own image. Matteo Guendouzi should thrive under the new manager, but the young Frenchman is perhaps the only midfielder currently at the club worth keeping. Mesut Ozil has been revitalised by Arteta’s arrival, but he operates further up the pitch, closer to the opposition box. The Gunners are badly lacking a number eight with Granit Xhaka not good enough and Dani Ceballos almost certain to return to Real Madrid once his season-long loan ends.
At 30, Aubameyang is unlikely to get any better than he is now, particularly given how dependent the Gabon striker is on his pace.
Looking at his footballing stock, this might be the ideal time for Arsenal to sell. After all, this is a club with ambitions of gaming the transfer market in much the same way Liverpool have over the past few years. They are willing to spend big, as they did for Nicolas Pepe in the summer, but net spend must be kept at a minimum.
If Aubameyang is indeed to leave Arsenal he will have spanned an awkward time in the club’s recent history. Signed for the last six months of the Arsene Wenger era, he became too good for the Gunners. Ironically, Aubameyang’s exit might be a catalyst for Arsenal to become the team their top scorer always wanted them to be.