It’s a flashy title. One that was sure to cause an array of reactions from Arsenal fans around the world. With one year left on his contract, Arsenal are in a position where something has to be done about Aubameyang. Extending his contract or selling him are really the only two options if you aren’t looking to let him walk away for free at the end of next year, and given the expected crash in the players market after this pandemic, his resale value is likely to dip immensely. Some have suggested to around £35m, even.
It is something that was brought up in an article on Goal.com, that included Jeremie Aliadiere saying, “Arsenal have no option but to sell Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang this summer – even if it is for a cut-price fee.” This statement is under the assumption that Arsenal are incapable of, or have no desire to re-sign him, something I would imagine has yet to be determined, given Arteta stating he would like to sign him “at all costs.”
The worrying signs here, aside from the idea of losing Aubameyang and getting limited funds in return, is the frequency in which the club seems to put themselves in this position. Do we lack foresight or have too much confidence in our ability to shape the future? The list of players Arsenal have let enter their final contract is a lengthy reminder of the poor bits of contract work the club has done. In recent years, Arsenal have been in sticky situations with major players including Aaron Ramsey as well as Mesut Ozil – both of which could be argued went poorly, but one should add Robin van Persie, Bacary Sagna, and Samir Nasri as well.
As you know, Aaron Ramsey was left to walk away on a free transfer to Italian giant Juventus, while Ozil was given an immense contract he hasn’t quite lived up to frequently enough. In an attempt to learn from these mistakes, Arsenal will have to find an outcome this summer because, simply put by the article, “Arsenal can’t keep losing players on a free.” It’s a notion that will force the hand of the club in a way that in all likelihood will be unfavorable, but could they have done better?
The article suggests we should lambast the leadership for allowing something like this to happen instead of dealing with it as early as last summer, when Arsenal could have sold him for “£100 million ($121m).”
Quote: “Or, he gets sold to Barcelona or Real Madrid and for what? How much can you expect for him now? Nothing compared to what if you’d sold him last summer. They could have asked for £100 million ($121m).”
It’s not that I disagree with the statement. In all likelihood, Arsenal could have sold Aubameyang for a large chunk of funds but hindsight is always 20/20, and if we are going to play that game, we should look at the message a sale at that time would have sent.
Selling Aubameyang early, even for that kind of price, would have suggested Arsenal were looking to cash in, rebuild, and didn’t feel as though they were close to having a team that could reach the top 4. We would have looked like a selling club that moves its best players on, knowing its chances of keeping them are limited when the time comes. Something that no fan believes or would appreciate, especially given the understanding that reaching the Champions League would put us in prime position to sign him again if we chose to.
It’s easy for us to say this now, without Champions League, during a pandemic, knowing the market is going to crash, and that funds are likely to be scarce. To fantasize about what £100M added to the coffers would do for us in this upcoming window, when top player’s values are sinking like stones, but it is hard to fault the club for backing their own ambitions hand keeping their star player for this year. After all, Arsenal nearly had reached the top 4, had reached a European final, and did not seem as though a mass overhaul would be needed – another hindsight 20/20 as the unsustainable Unai Emery crumbled in a matter of months.
“You can’t keep making the same mistakes over and over again. It’s crazy. How many top players are we going to keep losing on a free, or on very lower transfer fees? You just feel disappointed about it,” Aliadiere points out, and it is a fair way to feel. Many clubs are going to feel the losses when players that were worth £100m a year or two ago, are now worth £50m or less, but it’s something that feels unfair to hold against the club for not foreseeing when all signs pointed to a market that was very inflated, yet far from a burst.
What we can hold against the club is how they react, how they adjust their plans, and how they give Arteta the tools to build a team in his vision, correctly, that can be competitive in this year’s race for top 4, and challenge for the league in a few years. There is no doubt the timing of this pandemic will harm Arsenal’s rebuild greatly, but when it comes to Aubameyang – hindsight truly is 20/20.