When Arsenal won the FA Cup back in August, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang the hero against Chelsea at Wembley, the Gunners appeared to be back. But their decision to give the Gabon international a bumper new contract has backfired so far this season, with the veteran finding the net twice in the Premier League from 10 appearances. And that suggests Arsenal may have repeated the same mistake they made with Mesut Ozil.
Arsenal slipped to a fifth Premier League defeat of the season against Wolves on Sunday, with Mikel Arteta’s side flat throughout the showdown at the Emirates Stadium.
Wolves took the lead through Pedro Neto, before Gabriel Magalhaes then drew the hosts level.
However, Arsenal were beaten courtesy of a strike from Daniel Podence to consign them to yet another loss – leaving them flying 14th in the Premier League table.
Speaking after the game, Arteta admitted that results weren’t good enough. And, intriguingly, he revealed Aubameyang’s goal-shy form was his biggest problem at the current moment in time.
“I think we all are [worried] because the main goal scorer of the club at the moment isn’t scoring goals, so my biggest concern is how to help him more to score goals because we need his goals,” he said.
“How important Auba has been for this club in the last two years and how the goal sheet has been shared among the squad tells you his importance.
“He needs to be scoring goals if we want to be successful.”
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Arsenal, back in the summer, fought hard to keep hold of Aubameyang.
Barcelona showed strong interest in signing the former Borussia Dortmund star, initially targeting him as a replacement for Luis Suarez – who joined Atletico Madrid.
Aubameyang admitted he was intrigued by Barcelona’s proposition, saying in September: “They were several offers, notably from Barcelona.
“My priority was to stay for two reasons. The first is the coach, Mikel Arteta.
“We spoke a fair amount during the lockdown and he convinced me, notably in terms of the project.
“And of course, secondly, is the love that I receive from the fans and people at the club.
“Since I have been here, I have been treated like one of their own and – as I am one of their own – I am going to stay here. It is as simple as that.”
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Since then, however, Aubameyang’s form has dropped off. Alarmingly so, too.
The Gabon international has scored just twice in the top flight this season, with his last effort a penalty in the 1-0 win over Manchester United.
Against Wolves on Sunday, he was dire.
Nobody in an Arsenal shirt stood out but Aubameyang offered them next to nothing in attack, cutting a subdued figure throughout the showdown in north London.
He managed just 23 touches throughout the course of the 90 minutes and should, really, have been taken off. Instead Arteta gambled – and it didn’t pay off.
There’s no denying Aubameyang is top class. On his day, he ranks as one of the best forwards on the planet – never mind just the Premier League.
But there’s a genuine sense that Arsenal may have repeated the same mistake with Ozil, who they gave a bumper deal back in 2018.
That year, Arsenal ran the risk of losing the Germany international on a free transfer. But when Alexis Sanchez joined Manchester United, freeing up big funds, they managed to tie him down.
The Gunners gave Ozil, who was waning at the time, a contract worth £350,000-a-week. They were convinced they’d struck gold, heralding the move as a major coup.
But the player’s plight since proves otherwise. He’s not even in their Premier League and Europa League squads for the current campaign and getting him off the books has been easier said than done.
Now, with Aubameyang, Arsenal could have seen history repeat itself.
He’s over 30, he was once regarded as one of the best in the business and is now struggling.
Arsenal must hope he returns to form soon because, if not, their season may continue to get worse. Something Arteta can’t afford to happen.
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