If you’re anything like us, you are still buzzing after Arsenal’s New Year’s Day drubbing of Manchester United. Sure, it’s early in Mikel Arteta’s tenure, but Wednesday’s match felt like the deserving culmination of promise that was seen but not totally actualized during his first two matches in charge. Players across the pitch seem revitalized, the team seems to have a sense of identity, and Arteta has given Arsenal fans reason to finally believe in this team again.
It turns out that we are not alone in this renewed belief. While Arteta all but confirmed after the United match that Granit Xhaka would be staying at the club amid rumors of a transfer to Hertha Berlin of the Bundesliga, it appears that the Gunner’s goal-scoring talisman Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has also committed to the Gunners...for now.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang on his future: “The English press likes to talk a lot. For now, I’m here. I’m 100 per cent here. As soon as he [Arteta] got here, he put things on the table. He made it clear what he expected from us & that it was non-negotiable.” [RMC] #afc pic.twitter.com/pr8oYVJ6pW— afcstuff (@afcstuff) January 2, 2020
This news comes only two days after rumors began to spread that Auba wanted out of the Gunners, frustrated at a lack of Champions League football. It all began with a tweet by ZAFC, an unconfirmed “source” on twitter, which sent Arsenal fans into a frenzy:
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's representatives have made it very clear to Arsenal that their client wants to leave the club in January. There's definite interest from Real Madrid and Barcelona. Giroud would be open to rejoining Arsenal. [@garbosj]— Z (@ZRAFC) December 30, 2019
Since then, other outlets have run with that angle despite a lack of concrete information. But the rumors of Auba’s departure have been swirling for weeks, as numerous outlets had been linking the former Borussia Dortmund man with Inter Milan, Real Madrid, and Barcelona. In many ways, few could blame such a prolific striker with wanting off of a sinking ship. Aubameyang has accounted for 50% of Arsenal’s goals over the course of Arsenal’s worst season in decades.
While speaking to the press following their win against United, however, Aubameyang refuted claims that he was seeking a transfer, affirming his commitment to Arsenal while taking a pointed jab at the English media, saying that they “like to talk.” Although we don’t have any more insight into the lives of the players than anyone else, it is telling that he chose to single out the English media, whose livelihood it is to try to be the first to report info and not always the most accurate.
Holding on to someone of Aubameyang’s caliber is incredibly important for Arsenal. He has undoubtedly been the best player for the Gunners over the past two years, as well as Arsenal’s best striker since at least Robin Van Persie, if not Thierry Henry, as evidenced by his incredible 45 league goals since his debut in January of 2018, which is the most by any striker in the Premier League in that time frame. After him, the drop-off in caliber is steep, as Alexandre Lacazette, despite his high price tag, has not come close to being as prolific as Aubameyang. Behind them are the promising-but-untested youth options of Gabriel Martinelli and Eddie Nketiah.
Aubameyang has 18 months left on his Arsenal contract, and this affirmation is vital as the club continues to negotiate a contract renewal. Should he renew, he would break the awful cycle that Arsenal fell into over the past years when they allowed star players to run down their contracts before letting them go for free, as evidence by the heavily-criticized transfers of Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey.
This assurance by the Gabonese striker seems to be further proof that Arteta is out to improve things within the club at every level. In just a few short weeks, Arteta has transformed the way in which the players perform, and in doing so, transformed the perspective fans have on said players. The message by every player on social media since he has taken over has been the same: be patient and keep believing. Their improved demeanor during and following matches has also been noticeable. Even though they are working harder than ever before, they are smiling more than they have in quite some time, too.
The only thing that tarnishes Auba’s statement is the inclusion of “for now.” Sure, it could be chalked up to English not being his first language, but it’s also something to pay attention to, as it still leaves enough room for him to change his mind. But for now, he is an Arsenal man, and with any luck, will be so for another few years yet.