The transfer window is often riddled with flimsy rumours, which explains the often repeated ‘silly season’ tag. Recently, news spread that Arsenal’s top forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang could be on his way to Manchester United before the close of the summer transfer window in England on August 8.
The gossip has prompted parallels with the summer of 2012, when the North London club sold Robin van Persie to their long-standing Manchester rivals.
In what was a blow to Arsene Wenger’s side, they lost their captain and talisman to the Red Devils as they could no longer match his ambition to win things. While the Gunners’ profile had been declining in the years before, RvP’s decision to move was a further knock on their reputation.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s choice to opt for the prolific Dutch frontman made sense too, especially after how the previous campaign panned out. Manchester City won the Premier League title on the final day of 2011/12 on goal difference after both Manchester clubs ended the season with 89 points.
The legendary Scot subsequently identified the excellent van Persie as the vital component to wrest the title away from their city rivals the following season, and in turn fire United to a 20th PL title.
If United were to improve on their 89 goals scored in 11/12, pairing the top two scorers from that campaign – RvP (30) and Wayne Rooney (27) was certainly the way to go. The former was also named the Professional Footballers' Association Player of the Year owing to his consistency all season.
As it turned out, the forward made the desired impact in Manchester by influencing several games as the red half of the city sealed another league win in what turned out to be Sir Alex’s final campaign as manager.
He struck a formidable partnership with Rooney, as the pair hit a combined 38 goals, with van Persie scoring 26 while the Englishman netted 12.
Rooney’s numbers were reduced owing to the fact he was played in a withdrawn role, and that suited his strike partner.
Given the aforementioned, can parallels be drawn with the Aubameyang rumour?
In all fairness, besides the fact the move will be involving the same teams with strikers in their late twenties, the current profiles of both clubs means the Gabon international wouldn’t really be progressing to a new level.
Man United aren’t the juggernaut of six years ago and, like Arsenal, have been stuck in transition for a few years.
While the team RvP joined in 2012 were already title challengers who simply needed a little pinch of quality to usurp their city rivals, Auba will be signing for a club that ended 2018/19 in sixth place with 66 points, a staggering 32 points behind Pep Guardiola’s City side.
The Gunners have ended outside the Champions League spots in three successive campaigns while United have failed to make the top four in two of the last three seasons.
Admittedly, though, if a transfer does occur, it weakens Arsenal and certainly strengthens United. Even though the forward’s 32 league goals in the last 18 months haven’t somehow steered the capital club back into Europe’s top club competition, his impact has been evident.
With Alexander Lacazette leading the line on his own for the majority of 2017/18, the Gunners finished 12 points behind Liverpool in fourth, but they improved in the Gabon international’s first full season at the club, narrowly ending a point behind Tottenham Hotspur (71) and two behind Chelsea (72).
His goals were also key to Unai Emery’s troops making the 2019 Europa League final, a game they lost 4-1. The previous year, with the striker ineligible, they were eliminated by eventual winners Atletico Madrid in the semi-final.
Even though he hasn’t won a trophy yet in London, a move up north to the red half of Manchester isn’t in last season’s top scorer’s best interests.
The evidence suggests City and Liverpool will battle for the title yet again, while the other top sides scrap for the third and fourth.
Be that as it may, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team have shown more ambition in the transfer market, while Emery’s team are seemingly hamstrung financially, struggling to acquire their top targets.
Whether that is enough to convince Arsenal’s prized asset to switch clubs remains to be seen.
Six years ago, RvP left North London and moved to Man United to win the league title, a target he realised, but with that objective off the table for Aubameyang, it’d be wise holding off in the capital for something better to come along.