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New contract, sell or lose on a free - the transfer dilemma now facing Arsenal over Aubameyang

12:00 GMT+4 16/01/2020
Arteta, Aubameyang
The Gunners skipper is out of contract in 2021 and has been linked with a move to Barcelona

The fact that Arsenal tried so hard just to get Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s upcoming three-game ban reduced shows how vitally important the Gabon international is to Mikel Arteta’s team.

Aubameyang’s goal against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Saturday was his 14th in the Premier League this season; the rest of Arsenal’s squad combined have 15 between them.

That’s how reliant the Gunners have become on their prolific captain. Away from home the numbers are even more stark, with Aubameyang having scored nine of Arsenal’s 12 league goals.

So it’s no real surprise that the north London club were so desperate to get the 30-year-old’s three-game ban reduced following his sending off at Crystal Palace.

Aubameyang will miss the league games against Sheffield United and Chelsea, as well as the FA Cup fourth round tie at Bournemouth . Even if he had been available for just one of those games, Arsenal would have seen it as a bonus such is his value to the team right now.

But looking further ahead, the fact Arteta was so keen to have the striker available shows the challenge that could soon lie ahead for the Gunners.

With Aubameyang less than 18 months away from the end of his contract at Emirates Stadium, Arsenal are about to get a little taste over the coming weeks of what could be to come next season.

Aubameyang may have come out recently and insisted he is fully committed to Arsenal, but the likelihood is that the former Borussia Dortmund star leaves the club for the start of the 2020-21 campaign.

Aubameyang to leave in the summer

As it stands, this is the most likely outcome.

Aubameyang will have just one year left on his current deal come the summer and there are no talks ongoing about extending his stay.

The frontman and his representatives put a halt to discussions over a new deal last summer and they have yet to start again.

There were suggestions that the forward could be sold this month to maximise his value but Arsenal were never open to losing their top goalscorer at the midway point of the season.

That stance could change in the summer, however, given it will be the last time they will realistically be able to receive any sort of transfer fee for the striker.

Aubameyang has been angered by the recent reports that he is looking to leave, insisting that he remains as committed as ever to Arsenal.

"I would like to react to some of the rumours that are going around about me in the media,” he wrote in his programme notes ahead of the FA Cup tie with Leeds United.

“People like making up stories and they should focus on what's happening on the pitch. They talk too much and it does my head in! I am the Arsenal captain.

“I love this club. I am committed to it and desperate to bring it back to the top, where it belongs."

But despite those reassuring words, the fact is it was Aubameyang himself who put a halt to talks over a new deal. He is now 30 and is at a stage of his career where he is desperate to be playing in the Champions League.

That looks unlikely at Arsenal, unless Arteta can inspire his team to success in the Europa League this season, so Aubameyang will need to leave in the summer if he wants to have another chance of playing in Europe’s elite competition.

And although Arsenal do not want to lose their forward, they are aware they can’t afford to lose him on a free transfer in 2021 so would reluctantly agree to a sale, should a suitable offer arrive.

That money would then be put into finding a replacement for Aubameyang, which will no doubt be a costly exercise given his importance to the side.

Aubameyang to stay and sign a new contract

This is clearly the option Arsenal would prefer, but any chance of this happening centres around qualification for the Champions League.

For the Gunners to have a chance of keeping hold of their talismanic striker, they need to be back playing in Europe’s top competition.

A top-four finish now looks all but impossible through the Premier League, but should Arsenal go one better than last season and lift the Europa League in May, then they will be back in the Champions League.

That could be enough to convince Aubameyang to pen fresh terms as on a personal level he is happy in London and is enjoying working under Arteta - something he has already admitted.

“We needed someone who would come in and shake the whole squad up,” said Aubameyang soon after Arteta’s appointment. “We needed someone with new ideas, with a new message and someone who would take us in a different direction. Mikel has brought all of that.

“We needed a fresh new start and something different and we can feel it already. He is very rigorous and demanding on the training pitch. It’s all about details with him so he talks a lot, repositions us, explains a lot of little things.

“It’s exciting for us because it’s so different to everything we have done and experimented with before. It is a new dawn and you can feel how positive everyone is at the club about it.”

Arteta himself is desperate to keep hold of Aubameyang, which is understandable given his goalscoring record since he swapped Germany for England in January 2018.

And Arsenal are well aware how much it will cost to try and replace a forward of his quality, and so from the club’s point of view, getting him to sign a new deal is by far the most desirable option.

Despite being impressed with Arteta and being settled in London, Aubameyang does not want to be part of a long-term rebuilding project at this stage of his career, so being able to offer him Champions League football remains the key ingredient in convincing him to commit to a new contract.

Aubameyang to see out his current contract and leave in 2021

This is the unlikeliest of all the options.

Arsenal simply do not have the financial luxury of being able to let Aubameyang run down his contract before leaving on a free transfer.

And given the interest that will come Aubameyang’s way in the summer, the 30-year-old would not want to spend another year stranded outside of the Champions League next season while Arsenal try to rebuild.

There is a long line of players who left the Emirates Stadium on free transfers in the past few years, with Aaron Ramsey the most recent example.

Arsenal will not want Aubameyang’s name added to that list, so if they are unable to convince him to sign a new deal at the end of the season they would much rather get some money in for him that can be reinvested in a replacement.