Manchester City might shift their transfer focus to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang should their pursuit of Harry Kane fall apart, and Arsenal would be open to moving the striker, according to The Telegraph. Aubameyang is “a key part” but is “no longer considered indispensable” to Mikel Arteta’s plans in North London, writes Sam Dean.
If you’re the connecting-the-dots type, the rumor makes some sense. Manchester City want (and need) a true striker. There are still question marks around their pursuit of Harry Kane and that deal may fall through. There is the Guardiola-Arteta connection. Chelsea, City’s main competition for the Premier League title, addressed their striker need by spending £100M on Romelu Lukaku. So City need to respond in-kind.
But it also feels a bit like last season when Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was late to the Tottenham match and then had malaria. Everybody tried to read between the lines to find a rift between him and Arteta / the club that wasn’t there. He simply showed up late and later had malaria.
It strikes me as a little odd that Arsenal, a club desperate for goals, would sell their club captain and talismanic striker. Until last season, Aubameyang had scored 22+ league goals for five straight seasons. He has scored in double-digits every year, 11 straight, since becoming a first-team regular in 2011-12 at Saint-Etienne. In a down year last season, Aubameyang tied Nicolas Pepe for second at the club with 10 league goals, with third place Bukayo Saka netting just 5.
On the other hand, Aubameyang is 32-years old and on £250K-per-week wages. Last year may have marked the start of his decline instead of being an aberration from which he’ll bounce back. Arsenal are right to at least consider moving him if City are interested and offering a decent price.
Coming into this season, Arsenal seemed set at striker. Even with Alexandre Lacazette and Eddie Nketiah’s contracts expiring at the end of the year, that duo combined with Aubameyang were enough this year. Nketiah’s injury and the COVID-positives threw a wrench into the immediate, short term works. But once healthy, those three should be able to cover the majority of the scoring duties for the next 36 matches.
The striker depth is going to need a refresh soon, however. Folarin Balogun is a promising prospect, but he still only has one Premier League start and less than 180 Premier League minutes to his name. It’s too soon to tell whether he’ll pan out. Gabriel Martinelli hasn’t looked great in the opening two matches of the season (and his future may not be at striker, anyway). To be fair, he’s definitely not had sufficient rest or training with the squad post-Olympics to expect much of him right now. Beyond that, the cupboard is bare.
Theoretically, Aubameyang will be at the club for the final year of his contract in 2022-23. I doubt he’ll stay beyond that. You’d like to have at least a proven backup for him next year, if not his replacement waiting in the wings, splitting time.
There was a short bit this summer when it looked as if Lautaro Martinez could be that next guy in North London, but that transfer buzz has died down. He’s reportedly set to sign a new contract at Inter Milan, so it seems as if Arsenal (and Spurs) were being used as bargaining pieces to get him a better deal. A bit longer ago, the Gunners were being consistently linked with Odsonne Edouard, but there has been even less chatter there.
If Arsenal can get a fair return for Aubameyang and reinvest the money before the close of the transfer window next week into another striker or a right back (which seems a major need), selling Aubameyang might be worth it. But that’s a big if. Time is ticking to hammer out a sale and secure an incoming transfer before August 31st, and I have no idea who that new striker might be should the Gunners sell Aubameyang.