After weeks of negotiations, Arsene Wenger has finally reunited two of the Bundesliga’s most talented attacking duos.
Last week, the Arsenal manager secured Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s arrival as part of the deal which saw Alexis Sanchez head to Manchester United. And now the Frenchman has sanctioned a club record transfer of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang , who will join a rich array of talent up front including Mesut Ozil and Alexandre Lacazette.
It was only last summer when protracted negotiations with Lyon saw Arsenal break their transfer record for 26-year-old Lacazette. Five months on, the Gunners were put under even more pressure to seal the Aubameyang deal after photographs emerged of the contract negotiating team out in Germany ahead of talks with Borussia Dortmund officials.
Arsenal have lost a player who scored 30 goals last season in Alexis Sanchez but they are undoubtedly better off without him.
The Chilean’s frustrations with his fellow team-mates throughout the past year negatively affected the squad and many players were relieved when the transfer saga finally came to an end.
While there can be no questioning Sanchez’s imperious talent, it should be noted that he struggled to replicate his form of last season and the uncertainty surrounding a key player’s contract situation - coupled with the common knowledge that he wanted to leave the club last summer - certainly did not help team morale.
The Gunners’ new contract negotiating team were joined by Sven Mislintat in Germany, a man who knows Borussia Dortmund rather well considering he only officially became an Arsenal employee from January 1, having left the German giants on unsavoury terms following a falling out with former head coach Thomas Tuchel.
Although Mislintat’s strengths are centred around player recruitment, the fact that he was pictured with chief executive Ivan Gazidis and new contracts expert Huss Fahmy reinforced the notion that Wenger’s absolute power is gradually being decreased, even if he does have the final say on who leaves and joins the club.
There can be no arguments over what Arsenal are getting; two players in the prime of their careers who have an almost telepathic understanding of each other on the pitch.
Aubameyang, a winger turned striker blessed with blistering speed, has scored 100 goals in his last 119 games in all competitions for Dortmund. He has the second best minutes to goal record in Bundesliga history and scored 39 goals for the season back in 2015-16 when he was playing in the same team as Mkhitaryan.
Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang combined for 62 goals that campaign and it’s clear that the two will add the necessary bite to an Arsenal attack which would have been lacking following Sanchez’s departure. Ozil’s incisiveness in the final third and ability to pick out any player with a pass makes the prospect of all three in the same team a mouth-watering one for Arsenal fans.
Aubameyang scored 31 league goals last season and finished ahead of Robert Lewandowski as the Bundesliga’s top scorer. Meanwhile, Armenian international Mkhitaryan hit 23 goals in his final campaign for Dortmund and netted six in 10 starts for United during their successful Europa League campaign. Despite falling out of favour with Jose Mourinho, those who are quick to criticise the 29-year-old’s time in England as a failure should be reminded of what he has achieved in the space of 18 months.
When asked how Arsenal’s new signings will fit into a team already bloated by attacking talent, Wenger replied by saying: “Just play the good players! They can always play together.
"Today what do you have on the pitch? They’re all attacking players. [Alex] Iwobi, Ozil, [Jack] Wilshere, Lacazette, [Granit] Xhaka. They’re all offensive players, basically.”
Indeed, the lack of a defensive presence in midfield may see Wilshere switch to an even deeper lying role.
What is certain is Arsenal have managed to come out of the transfer window stronger than they were when it opened. A solid defensive addition is still needed to bolster the squad but there can be no arguments that Wenger and his team have done everything possible to strengthen the club’s position and challenge for a top four spot, a possible League Cup success and maybe even a Europa League triumph.