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Aubameyang: Arsenal board hold the keys to a new contract

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There a lot of questions, and few answers, about the striker’s future.

Arsenal v Brentford: Friendly Photo by Stuart MacFarlane/Arsenal FC via Getty Images

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has yet to decide whether he will remain at Arsenal beyond next season. The striker is out of contract in June 2021 and said in a recent interview with French outlet Telefoot that currently there is not an offer on the table from the club. The expectation is that if Arsenal cannot re-sign him soon, they will be looking to move him in the summer window, whenever that ends up being.

Recently I haven’t received an offer but of course there have been discussions with the club for a few months now. They know very well why so far nothing has happened. It’s them [the club] who have the keys and for them to do their work. Afterwards we will see how things go. It is a turning point in my career, and I will be very frank with everyone, it will be of course a very difficult decision to make because I have still not decided. It is possibly the most important decision of my career. To be clear, nothing has been decided.

There is a full translation of the interview on GetFootballNewsFrance, and I suggest you read it yourself so that you can do your own reading between the lines.

Here’s my take: he’s waiting to see how the rest of this season plays out.

He will be 31 on Thursday, so he is deciding where he will spend the autumn of his career. His next contract is likely to be his last “big” one.

If Arsenal somehow make the Champions League, I think he re-signs without issue. If it’s just the Europa League, Arsenal will have to sweeten the pot — either by beefing up their offer or making it clear, by spending, that they are not content to be a Europa League club. If the club miss Europe entirely, I think he’s gone. The situation is much more complicated than “sign him or sell him,” and signing him to an expensive deal that will take him well into his 30’s might not be the best decision to begin with.

That last scenario, where Arsenal miss Europe completely, is the trickiest one because he’s still under contract for next season. After Arsenal’s recent issues with letting players run down their contracts (see e.g. Aaron Ramsey, Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil), Raul Sanllehi has made it clear the club does not want players to enter their contract year without an extension. That suggests Arsenal would look to sell Aubameyang if the two sides don’t work something out.

But who is buying and at what price? Sure, there has been interest from Barcelona, Real Madrid, and PSG, but how much do they have to spend? Is selling Aubameyang below his pre-shutdown market value worth it?

If Arsenal are able to find a suitor and a worthwhile price, could they turn around and reinvest that sale money in new players? It’s not clear that there is going to be much transfer activity at all this summer. And after the front office shattered the club transfer record for Nicolas Pépé, who has yet to live up to the price tag, are you confident that they would buy the right player with the profits from an Aubameyang sale?

If the Gunners do sell him, where are the goals going to come from next season? Alexandre Lacazette? He’s spent the last nine months out of form and is also winding down his contract (2022). Gabriel Martinelli and Eddie Nketiah? They’re kids who have been impressive against lesser opponents and playing alongside established stars but haven’t shown themselves capable of carrying the load for a full season (in part because of lack of opportunity to do so, to be fair).

If Arsenal do re-sign Aubameyang, how long of a contract does he want and at what wages? How does tying up a bunch of money affect the club’s ability to rebuild over the next few seasons? Remember, Bukayo Saka also needs a new contract. Mesut Özil signed a high-wage, 4-year deal at 28-years old. How is that working out for Arsenal now?

Maybe keeping Aubameyang for next season and letting him leave on a free afterwards is the best decision. He’ll score 20+ goals in the Premier League, and Arsenal will finish higher in the table with him than without. If he fires the Gunners back into the Champions League and then moves on, I’d be more than okay with it.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s contract situation is representative of where Arsenal are as a club right now — at a crossroads. Whatever path they choose, be it tinkering around the edges of the squad, trying to rebuild on the fly, going for a whole reset, or something else, the club needs to pick a path and stick to it.