Charlie Nicholas fears Arsenal could make another contract blunder with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but feels they'll sell their star striker this summer.
The Gabon striker has been a regular goal scorer since joining Arsenal, but his contract expires in 2021 and after Aaron Ramsey walked away on a free the Gunners cannot afford to let that happen again.
With wage demands a possible problem, Arsenal may be tempted to cash in this summer on the 30-year-old to fund a rebuilding process elsewhere in the team.
All these issues make for a complicated scenario that Gunners great Charlie Nicholas tries to get to the bottom of...
How do you see this Aubameyang playing out?
The evidence says the last thing you want to do is lose Aubameyang. He is a magical goalscorer, but the only way I can accept if he moves on is if Arsenal say he won't sign a new contract and they have had offers for him. If they get an offer of around £60m-£80m, and accept that they need to rebuild the defence, then I would buy into that.
But Arsenal have failed abysmally when there has only been a year left of a player’s contract. It would only be acceptable if it was a case of selling him for the reinvestment of the team.
You have to either give him what he wants to sign him up or sell to get the right money and sort out this defence once and for all.
My preference would be to keep him but I have a feeling Arsenal will not keep him. If Ozil stays, I feel they will sell him, and they cannot afford another Aaron Ramsey saga.
I could accept if they get good money for him, as I am not convinced he will sign, and Arsenal can then rebuild in the process. Arsenal would miss his goals, but I do not think they would miss him greatly as an individual player.
Where could Aubameyang go?
I do not think Aubameyang is seeking to leave. He is a superstar at Arsenal. He was only a star at Dortmund. If he is thinking about leaving, are Manchester United going to give you more opportunities as it stands? I do not think so. Would he get into Liverpool’s side? No. Manchester City could be an option so that he could replace Sergio Aguero, but the only alternatives are two giants of Spain, but I do not think he is that type.
If it was City or the two giants, I would accept it, but the rest I cannot be convinced that he would be guaranteed game time. The signs are still promising, but the weakness of Arsenal to deliver contracts is what terrifies me more than anything. My gut feeling is that he will be sold to allow the restructure of Mikel Arteta’s team.
Who could replace him if he leaves?
Eddie Nketiah runs off the ball into space, and is a very good finisher. Martinelli does have the potential too. The signs with him are pretty similar.
He is young, but that does not matter. If people look at how he finishes, you can see a cool and clinical aspect. Jurgen Klopp was raving about him for a reason. He is ruthless. The potential is there, but will not reach Aubameyang’s level yet.
Nicolas Pepe has not done a lot yet and has certainly not delivered. Nketiah is a finisher but he is not at that level. He is more a number nine that needs to learn the trade, and is still way behind Alexandre Lacazette.
There is potential to replace, but Arsenal will still be an attack-minded side once they rebuild and become more well-drilled and organised. I could accept if they get good money for him, as I am not convinced he will sign, and Arsenal can then rebuild in the process.
Should Arsenal break the bank to keep him?
My preference would be to offer Aubameyang what he wants. Everyone will flag up his wages. I have been told differing scenarios, especially with Mesut Ozil. Is it possible Ozil could move on? Could this then help fund wages for Aubameyang and others? If they get him off the wage bill without getting anything for him, it will not be too bad.
There are differing ways of doing this, but more than anything, I would want Arsenal to renew Aubameyang’s contract for three or four years. Even if Arsenal are average as of next year, they cannot decline much more, it has reached its bottom.
Arteta wants five or six out and he wants that money to rebuild. If nothing more is in the pot, sell to rebuild. If you are doing that as a financial package, you are not buying to replace Aubameyang. You can get rid of Shkodran Mustafi and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who has been out on loan. This will all help to filter through, so there are easy things to do. Give him what he wants, get rid of dead wood, you have the kids, and it would not cost £200m to challenge for the top four once more.
What if he doesn’t want to sign? Do they keep him until the end of his contract and risk losing on a free?
No. The Aaron Ramsey situation was ridiculous. I remember when we were talking about Ramsey with 18 months to go. Ramsey had won over a lot of Arsenal fans at that point, but he was not the favourite of everyone. A lot were saying let him go. I said the same thing then as what I will now. Even asking for something over the top, it would not be massively over what Arsenal thought would be something feasible. Ramsey probably wanted to say, but he may just have wanted some more money. Why could they not pay him what other teams were paying their players? They could not afford it and could have given into it, but I do not see why Arsenal keep running contracts down.
Man Utd were cute enough to get players over the line like Nemanja Matic, and manipulate the system where they can keep these type of players for another year. If they want to leave, there is still value and you are still getting money back. It goes into replacing some of these players.
Arsenal are stuck with Shkodran Mustafi and Sead Kolasinac, but will they get any value back? No. Carl Jenkinson is still there. You have Rob Holding, Calum Chambers who has been in and out. The whole aspect of what they do is baffling. Give Aubameyang the contract, if he wants to go then get the best money you can to go and replace him. Fans will understand this. If it is more or less £60m-£80m, then that is good enough for me. That is one way I would accept it.
Can they risk another RVP situation?
It depends what people put down as a risk. You give him to Man Utd. If he was to go there, does it help Arsenal? No. If Aubameyang wants to go, you ideally want him out of the Premier League, that is the general aspect. If I was Aubameyang, he will be thinking about what happened to Alexis Sanchez.
Would he want to be a part of a superstar reload at Manchester United? Is there a great appeal to that? If it was Liverpool or Man City I would get that. Man Utd are miles away from the top two, but they have the money and better idea of where they can see the progress coming from. Arsenal have been in a mess and are only five points behind them with a game in hand. There is not a lot in this.
I do not see the glamour and appeal of joining Man Utd. Would he win the title with Man Utd in the next few years? I don’t think so. He might not even be in the Champions League if he was to join. What is the real appeal? Is it salary? I don’t think he is that type.
Van Persie jumped to a massive salary, but Man Utd are not the same calibre as what they were. Would he be the cutting edge to them? Man Utd have other issues to address like Arsenal. If Arsenal were to get £100m for him to sign for Man Utd, I would take that. It will make them better, that is why they would pay big. Arsenal were the challengers to United for the title, but now neither of them are. Man Utd offer £100m for Aubameyang, sell him.