Pierre Emerick Aubameyang could be on his way out of Arsenal once the Covid-19 crisis eases and football is resumed. Mail Online report that the Gunners are open to selling their club captain, with talks over a new contract stopped. The Gabon international’s current contract expires in the summer of 2021. It was initially thought that the club would look to extend that, but he would want an increase on his £200,000-a-week wages and has ambition to return to Champions League football. The former is very difficult due to the current financial issues caused by the Coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, Champions League football is unlikely to return to the Emirates Stadium any time soon.
Arsenal have often been criticised for their poor management of player contracts. This has come around to bite them again, with Aubameyang approaching the final 12-months of his. Although the unpredictable world crisis that has ensued has made it more difficult to deal with and they can be afforded some sympathy for that. At the beginning of the year, the finances required to compensate the striker for the lack of Champions League football in a new contract may have seemed worth it. Following an agreement with the majority of the squad to take a wage cut of 12.5% during the coming months, it would be impossible to increase the salary of their top scorer.
Due to this, the decision to sell Aubameyang is a straight forward one, as they can bring significant funds into the club and decrease their wage spend. The report indicates that Inter Milan and Barcelona are interested in a transfer, while ESPN report that Chelsea could make a move for the 30-year-old.
The difficulty for the club may be the uncertainty surrounding the sport, especially transfers and the future of player fees. They have continually increased for decades, but the Covid-19 crisis could see a decrease in the short-term. They will have a preference to sell him to a team outside of the Premier League, but their London rivals may be able to offer a better financial package if all three clubs try to sign Aubamayang.
The consistency he has shown since arriving in the Premier League has proven his status as one of the best forwards in Europe. Aubameyang has scored 47 Premier League goals at a rate of one every 129.7 minutes. Considering Arsenal have failed to finish in the top four during that time, his record ranks him as one of the most dangerous in the division. He has also showed his versatility by playing centrally, as part of a front two or on the left flank. The 30-year-old carries a consistent goal threat in any of those roles and that makes him an appealing signing for a top European club, even at his age.
His age will be another reason why Arsenal are willing to cash in, despite their reliance on his attacking output. The quick decline of Alexis Sanchez following his exit showed that the Gunners were correct not to give in to his demands. Meanwhile, Mesut Ozil hasn’t been the same since he signed a new contract. Although Aubameyang remains at the top of his game now, there is no telling if he will remain at that level for two or three more seasons.
The current situation will give the hierarchy time to breathe and discuss the future with Mikel Arteta. The new manager is likely to want to shape the squad in his image and the funds provided by an Aubemeyang sale will help him do that. It will hurt in the short term, but Arsenal can’t afford to bend backwards to accommodate the striker like they did with Ozil. Arsenal need to make smart decisions in the transfer market to re-emerge as a force in the Premier League, starting with the sale of their star player.