Barcelona are reportedly keen on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but Mikel Arteta wants the striker to remain an Arsenal player beyond the January transfer window.
Gunners boss Arteta spoke after watching his side beat Bournemouth 2-1 on Monday to reach the fifth round of the 2020 FA Cup. He addressed the speculation about Aubameyang and what it means for the 30-year-old’s future, per Football.London: “I want Auba here 100 percent and I can’t wait to have him back after his suspension.”
Aubameyang, who has been banned for Arsenal‘s last three matches after the red card he received during a 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace earlier this month, has been heavily linked with a move to the Camp Nou.
The Telegraph’s Matt Law reported how Barca consider Aubameyang the prime target to offset the loss of Luis Suarez, who is out until at least April while he recovers from knee surgery. Law also noted the Blaugrana will approach the Gunners this week but are wary the north London club will want more than £50 million for the leading goalscorer in the squad.
Valencia’s Rodrigo Moreno is an alternative to Aubameyang, whose Arsenal contract expires in just under 18 months, per the report.
Arteta’s declaration of faith suggests Barca are wise to worry about how much a deal for Aubameyang might cost. Arsenal would naturally want to avoid losing the man who has scored 16 goals in all competitions this season, including 14 in the Premier League.
There is no denying Aubameyang’s value, but the time may just be ripe for the Gunners to cash in. His age is a factor, although there is no sign of deterioration in Aubameyang’s skills or production.
A more compelling reason to sell comes from the youthful talent Arsenal also have at the position. Specifically, 18-year-old Gabriel Martinelli has already made his mark by scoring 10 times since arriving from Brazil last summer.
Martinelli assisted Bukayo Saka’s opener against the Cherries to further justify the plaudits his obvious potential has merited:
While Martinelli has made an instant impact, the Gunners still have faith in academy graduate Eddie Nketiah. Still just 20, Nketiah is a natural finisher who was recently recalled from a loan spell with Leeds United.
Nketiah showcased his quality in the box by coolly tucking away Arsenal’s second at the Vitality Stadium. There’s a ruthless efficiency about the way Nketiah takes his chances:
A quality like that could help compensate for losing Aubameyang’s influence if he was to move on. He’s still a natural in and around the area, a versatile striker with unerring instincts as well as the pace to stretch defences.
Yet as productive as Aubameyang has been since arriving from Borussia Dortmund in the winter of 2018, numbers show the Gunners can cope without their attacking talisman:
Alexandre Lacazette is already established as Arteta’s centre-forward of choice, with Aubameyang usually played out wide to accommodate the Frenchman. Lacazette is under contract until the summer of 2022.
Keeping both would seem beyond a club lacking the funds to retain top stars and also add fresh talent to the many suspect areas of the squad. Arteta needs to bolster a fragile defence and add creativity to midfield.
Lacazette isn’t the consistent goalscorer Aubameyang is, but his work-rate and range of movement fit the high-intensity pressing game Arteta brought with him from Manchester City. At 28, Lacazette is also younger, perhaps a consideration for Arteta, who seems likely to rely on youth while he rebuilds Arsenal:
The Gunners have had a chance to find out what life without Aubameyang would be like during his suspension. With burgeoning talents like Martinelli and Nketiah catching the eye and funds needed to fix other positions, now could be the ideal time to take advantage of Barca’s need for a proven striker to support Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann.