Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is too important for Arsenal to let go - this is an expensive risk they had to take

Yes, Aubameyang's contract is a lot of money to give to someone of his age, but he is absolutely crucial to Mikel Arteta's plans

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has signed a new deal to stay at Arsenal
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has signed a new deal to stay at Arsenal Credit: GETTY IMAGES

It is a measure of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s influence at Arsenal that the club has decided he will still be worth £250,000 per week, at least, when he is almost 34 years old. The striker’s new contract is a considerable investment for a club in significant financial trouble, but from Arsenal’s perspective there can be no questioning whether this is the right decision.

Aubameyang is not simply one part of Mikel Arteta’s short-term plan. In many ways, he is the plan. The team is currently geared around making the most of his considerable goalscoring talent, the system designed in a way that allows Aubameyang to be as threatening as possible.

Take him out, and Arsenal would essentially need to start from scratch again. That is why there was almost no choice but to provide him with this lucrative, lengthy deal. Might they regret it in 18 months, when the rigours of a lifetime in football begin to take a physical toll on Aubameyang’s body? Perhaps. But it has been decided that this is, emphatically, a risk worth taking.

Aubameyang’s importance to the club stretches far beyond the pitch. He is a hugely important character behind the scenes, where he serves as a mentor for the club’s array of talented youngsters. At Borussia Dortmund, especially in the final few months before his move to London, there were suggestions that he was something of a “bad boy” with his behaviour and attitude. Not once have these accusations been repeated at Arsenal. 

The captain’s armband came his way last season in circumstances that no one had expected or wanted: the stripping of the role from Granit Xhaka was a painful but necessary move following his dramatic fallout with the club’s supporters.

Aubameyang has not always been an obvious leader, in the traditional sense, but at Arsenal they speak glowingly of the way he sets the tone in training and in matches. When a player like Aubameyang commits, as he has done to Arteta’s new system, the rest of the squad follows. 

“He sets the example as the main man with the way he behaves and treats all the younger players,” one first-team player told Telegraph Sport. “He does his talking on the pitch and he is better at doing that than anybody.”

Aubameyang is of vital importance on and off the pitch Credit: GETTY IMAGES

From a financial point of view, how much would it cost to replace a striker who has scored at least 25 goals in every season since 2014/15? He is in the highest category of European goalscorers and Arsenal are currently unable to shop in that market. There would be no way of replacing his goals, no short-term solution to his absence.

It will have helped Aubameyang’s cause during these months of negotiations that his injury record since joining Arsenal has been nothing short of phenomenal. Last season he started 35 of 38 Premier League games. Two of the matches he missed were because of suspension, while he was rested for the other. The physical decline will come, as it always does, but it is certainly not happening yet.

Some of the more cautious supporters among Arsenal’s fanbase might point to the contract that was given to Mesut Ozil, a similarly lucrative deal bringing to an end a similarly lengthy saga. Since he put pen to paper in January 2018, Ozil’s form has declined rapidly. If Arsenal could go back and undo that offer, there is no doubt they would.

Aubameyang, though, has shown in his time at Arsenal that he is a different sort of personality. It has never been suggested, for example, that Ozil is one of the great motivators behind the scenes. A wonderfully gifted footballer, yes, but a leader? That is not Ozil. Aubameyang ticks that box and there can be no questioning his attitude or his hunger to lift trophies.

It should be said, too, that Ozil signed his new deal just a few months before the club’s philosophy was drastically altered by the departure of Arsene Wenger and the appointment of Unai Emery. Having been pivotal to Wenger’s system, Ozil was suddenly forced to adapt to an entirely new style.

It is hard to see any such changes taking place in the near future at Arsenal, where Arteta has impressed so much that he has this summer been promoted from head coach to manager. Arsenal are desperate for solidity, rather than more turmoil, and the culture of the club is unlikely to be revamped any time soon. This suits Aubameyang, who will surely be the “main man” for some time to come.