When news filtered through last week about Chelsea’s supposed interest in Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, it was a case of deja vu for the Blues’ supporters and Gooners.
Over the years, fans of the West London club have claimed three former Arsenal players who came to Stamford Bridge to win trophies: Ashley Cole in 2006, Cesc Fabregas in 2014 and Olivier Giroud in January 2018.
However, there were extenuating circumstance in these instances; Cole was dismayed by the Gunners’ contract offer, Arsene Wenger opted against re-signing the Spanish playmaker from Barcelona, while the Frenchman made the switch as he was desperate to play for France at the 2018 World Cup.
However, should Aubameyang swap North London for West London, silverware would surely be his primary motivating factor.
Arsenal fans are reliving the nightmare of seeing their best players walk out the door at the Emirates, having watched important players like Thierry Henry, Kolo Toure, Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie, to name a few, depart North London due to the club’s failure to compete for top honours.
Auba’s future has been in the air since the start of the 2019/20 campaign, but he reaffirmed his commitment to the club shortly after Mikel Arteta’s arrival, which appeared to be a wise move at the time.
With the summer transfer window approaching, and knowing the player’s situation, multiple outlets reported the Chelsea story late last week, but who would benefit from any deal - the Blues, the Gunners, or Aubameyang himself?
Frank Lampard’s first season at the helm has shown that despite Tammy Abraham’s promise, he still can’t last the rigours of an arduous season at a top side. While he overcame a tough start to the season, the young Englishman thrived in the autumn to help propel last season’s Europa League winners into the top four, until the inexperienced Blues side began to fade.
Having won one of their first four matches, Chelsea picked up 21 points from a possible 24, with Abraham scoring six goals in eight games.
However, a run of just three goals since the start of December coincided with Lampard’s side’s slump through the winter, thus jeopardising their top four finish.
Throughout their bad spell, the side were laboured in possession and struggled to create really quality chances, while lacking a frontman with the cutting edge to put chances away.
In theory, the Blues look to have solved their creativity problem with the recent acquisition of Hakim Ziyech from Ajax, and Aubameyang’s reliability in front of goal indicates he could solve goalscoring issues at the Bridge too.
In some way, this is a similar situation to where Chelsea found themselves after 2013/14 where they needed a creator and dependable striker, and Jose Mourinho signed Fabregas and Diego Costa. In 14/15, they became Premier League champions for the fourth time.
While Ziyech, an elegant wide playmaker, may not play the same position as the deep-lying creator and isn’t in the same class as the Spaniard, Aubameyang represents a world class forward like Costa was and together, the Moroccan and Gabonese stars could take Lampard’s team to the next level.
For Arsenal, if their captain agitates for a transfer, they are left with two choices; sell early and take a risk on a younger, promising striker in Europe or keep the wantaway forward for the last year of his contract.
One option could be a move for LOSC Lille’s Victor Osimhen, but it wouldn’t be a like-for-like replacement given Arteta has largely played his talisman in a wide role on the left, with either Eddie Nketiah or Alexander Lacazette deployed down the middle.
On the other hand, the financial ramifications of keeping the frontman for one more season, reportedly against his will, would see the North London club miss out on the opportunity of getting something substantial for a player already in his thirties.
For a club that’s failed to play Champions League football since 2016/17 and seem unlikely to play in Europe’s premier club competition next season, selling Auba gives them the much-needed wiggle room in the market to rebuild.
Nevertheless, they’ll have reservations about strengthening a top four rival, and would surely prefer to sell abroad rather than do business with Chelsea.
For Aubameyang’s part, it’s not as straightforward.
The Gabon star, who turns 31 in June, frankly needs a team that is ready to compete for honours straightaway, and not another in transition like Lampard’s side.
Even though the former Borussia Dortmund star is comfortable with life in London, a move to the Blues, while being an upgrade to current situation isn’t as significant as it may seem on first viewing.
The 2012 Champions League winners are nowhere near Manchester City or Liverpool on a technical level and don’t look ready to challenge those two domestically any time soon.
On the continent, as seen in their 3-0 home defeat by Bayern Munich, the Chelsea side are light years away from mounting anything significant in Europe as well.
Also, they’ve been in and out of Europe’s top competition since 2015/16, missing out on two occasions while participating twice in 17/18 and this season, only to be eliminated at the first knockout round.
In fact, since reaching the semi-final in 13/14, Chelsea have failed to progress past the last 16 on four occasions, a statistic that highlights their continental decline.
This sort of inconsistency and uncertainty isn’t something Aubameyang can afford at this stage of his career and he should out for one of Europe’s higher-echelon clubs who consistently compete for trophies.
Consequently, while Chelsea are bound to be beneficiaries of the striker who’s scored 61 times in 97 appearances at Arsenal, the same can’t be said for Arteta’s troops or the prolific Gabon star.