Despite Mikel Arteta’s early improvements, the Arsenal are still reliant on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to score the team’s goals.
While Arteta has seemed to get Nicolas Pepe to produce the kind of displays that had Europe at his feet while he was still playing for Lille, Aubameyang is still the main focal point for his side.
Ever since the Granit Xhaka incident, Aubameyang has also shouldered the responsibility of being Arsenal club captain – a truly prestigious position that greats such as Tony Adams and Patrick Viera have occupied.
Yet, with his contract up in 18 months, Arsenal is in serious danger of losing the striker. They have one of either two options: sell him to recoup his transfer fee, or keep him and run the risk of losing one of Europe’s deadliest strikers for free should he not sign a new contract.
There is one key factor that Aubameyang’s future could, and probably will, revolve around: the Champions League.
If, by some minor miracle, Arsenal could either salvage the last top-four spot in the Premier League from under the noses of Tottenham, Manchester United and Chelsea, it could convince Aubameyang to stay.
The alternative (and easier) option is to win the Europa League, a competition now playing host to minnows such as Ajax, Inter Milan, Roma, Sevilla and United.
The prospect of playing in Europe’s elite competition is enticing to any player, especially a player like Aubameyang – a deadly finisher who could be entering the last chance to earn one big payday.
As such, a move to Barcelona or Real Madrid – two clubs that have been rumoured to be interested in the Gabonese striker – would be too hard to turn down.
We then look on to what Arsenal could be like without Aubameyang, and it doesn’t look good. The striker has notched 14 goals and one assist in the Premier League this season, as well as two goals in this season’s Europa League.
It’s not just goals that would be missed if he were to leave, though. His ability to keep the attack running and his leadership qualities are vital to Arteta’s Arsenal, and both would be sorely missed.
There is the very real possibility, however, that he could sign a new deal with the club. Following Arsenal’s 2-0 win over Manchester United earlier in the month, Aubameyang spoke about his future saying: “The English press likes to talk a lot. For now, I’m here. I’m 100 per cent here”.
While he could be saying that as to not cause any problems within the side, it could be true. Aubameyang has struck a bromance with Alexandre Lacazette during his time at the club and has taken some of the younger players, specifically Gabriel Martinelli and Reiss Nelson, under his wing.
Currently, at least, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is an Arsenal player. Following his reckless red card against Crystal Palace, however, he is suspended for the next three Premier League matches.
With Lacazette also picking up his fifth yellow card of the season, both will miss Arsenal’s next Premier League game against high-flying Sheffield United.
The question for that game is a simple one: just how badly do Arsenal need Aubameyang?