Today, Mikel sat for his press conference before Arsenal’s FA Cup semifinal against Manchester City on Saturday. He was asked about Ceballos, Lacazette, Aubameyang, Maitland-Niles, Man City, fans coming back and tons more. Check out the full transcript here.
One of the big questions as Arsenal head into the transfer window and look to their future is what they will choose or be forced to do about their star striking friends Lacazette and Aubameyang. There are a ton of different outcomes and much of it will depend on surrounding factors including: player willingness, funds, need for funds, offers, swaps, qualifications, and likely many things I am missing.
However, as the days go on, Arteta will be pressed for answers given how the decisions surrounding these two will effect the rest of the transfer window and team building efforts.
The bulk of fan’s concerns lie with what Arsenal intend to do with golden boot winner and back-to-back golden boot contender Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. The club captain likely needs to have his contract extended or be moved along for some funds to put back into the side, and yet despite Arsenal struggling to seal European qualifications, Mikel seems confident. “I’ve always been very positive about it. I don’t have the key to the future and in football, anything is possible. But I see his reactions, I see how he is training every day. I know that he’s happy.”
As mentioned above, the aspects that will dictate the outcome of this situation are hard to keep track of – some in Arsenal’s hands, some completely out of their control. Will Arsenal have the funds? Will they qualify for European competitions to keep Aubameyang happy? Will they check both boxes, but see him make the decision to move on with his final years?
“I talk to him a lot and if we are able to do it, I think we can do it and we know how important he is for the team” Mikel states definitively.
One aspect at play is how Aubameyang’s deal intertwines with the fate of Alexander Lacazette. There are more than a handful of people keen to see Lacazette sold in order to fund Aubameyang’s new deal, but Arteta doesn’t seem to be sold on the idea. After two goals in two games and an assist, a bit of form is returning to Lacazette’s production and it comes with perfect timing in the gaffer’s mind.
“Yes, I really like Alex, I said that even before I joined here that he is the type of striker that I really like. I think he had periods where he was very unlucky, because he was having the chances and not converting them which he is not used to. But the way he can link play, he’s a massive competitor he hates to lose.”
It’s that workrate and link up play Lacazette brings that keeps Arteta attached to him. By all the signs, it appears Arteta just doesn’t rate Aubameyang capable of doing the job and producing the goals people have come to expect of him. It’s a highly disputed point, but potentially a fair one.
“He goes for every ball, you see in every challenge how he’s ready to go. He works really hard and he’s a very intelligent player, I am really happy with him.” The amount of time Lacazette spends coming deep with his back to goal in Arteta’s system and the effort he puts in to lead the press, may not be something that benefits Aubameyang’s game.
For many, it’s tough to imagine Aubameyang being moved along while Arsenal retain Lacazette, but given the different contract situations, it may be the case. All eyes will be on how that develops in the near future.