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The Aubameyang decision: fight or flight?


Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang hid his face in his hands, afraid to confront the reality being that he had just missed a golden chance that inevitably would’ve kept Arsenal in the Europa League. Any other player would warrant some blame but it was Aubameyang who had just put Arsenal in the lead a few minutes ago, a perfectly executed bicycle kick which sent the home fans into pandemonium, although short-lived.

To say Aubameyang has been important for this Arsenal team this season would undoubtedly be the understatement of the year. He has 20 goals for Arsenal this season, 17 coming in the Premier League making him the joint top-scorer. This is impressive in its own right but even more significant when you consider the fact Arsenal’s second top scorer in all competitions, Gabriel Martinelli, only has 3 in the league. Arsenal’s second top scorer in the league, Alex Lacazette has a measly 6.  Incredibly, Aubameyang has only scored five fewer league goals than all his teammates combined which not only speaks volumes about his sheer class but also the severe lack of help he has had in attack this season.

Not just his talent in front of goal has come into light this season though. Aubameyang was given the captain’s armband under extremely unforeseen circumstances but has responded fantastically. Whilst he may not be the most vocal during games, the example he sets for his teammates is second to none. Despite being nearly 31 now, Aubameyang still seems to possess endless energy. His pressing is simply relentless and lasts for the entire match, while also frequently running back to his own area to assist the young Bukayo Saka, who usually starts behind him. With the increased demand for off-the-ball work since Mikel Arteta joined the club, Aubameyang acts as a symbol of leadership and mentality for the rest of his teammates.

It is no secret that Aubameyang is a massive influence off the pitch also. He is loved by the Arsenal squad and staff for his contagious laughter and friendly personality. He is always seen to be making his teammates laugh in hilarious social media posts and videos taken from training. He is not just a jokester, however. He is extremely kind and supportive. As revealed in an interview with Brazilian news outlet ‘Globo Esporte’, Aubameyang was very supportive to young Gabriel Martinelli, who was taking a huge step up by coming to a completely different league and country at only the age of 18.

‘I arrived for lunch on the first day. I’m eating there, Aubameyang arrives and sits next to me, speaking Portuguese to me, ‘tudom ben?’ (‘all right?’), trying to communicate.’ Aubameyang speaks five languages, French, Spanish, Italian, English, and German. The Brazilian continued, ‘You see, the guy [is] so good [and] humble. I was like, ‘Man, Aubameyang, who I saw on the TV, came to talk to me! He’s also a guy who gave me a lot of support at the club, trying to communicate with me.’

Aubameyang has enjoyed a wonderful career and has buckets-full of experience to share with the younger generation of Arsenal attackers, which he is more than grateful to do. Martinelli, Eddie Nketiah and Bukayo Saka are all enjoying highly fruitful seasons and it is no coincidence that Aubameyang shares good relationships with them all. Another young man who is sure to have taken guidance from Aubameyang is highly rated striker Folarin Balogun, who is also enjoying a lucrative season for the U23s. Balogun was praised by his elder on Twitter, described with a fire emoji.

Aubameyang has 17 months left on his Arsenal deal and attempting to convince him to sign another will undoubtedly be one of Arsenal’s most challenging pieces of business this summer. The Gabonese international has praised the new club atmosphere under Arteta and can undoubtedly see the project that is underway with the Spaniard. However, Aubameyang is 31 in June and is approaching the end of his career. His career, despite being spectacular in terms of performance, hasn’t been littered with trophies. For Arsenal and Arteta to convince Aubameyang that trophies are on the way will take ambition in the market and real progress on the pitch.

Champions League football will also undoubtedly play a factor. Arsenal’s untimely exit from the Europa League on Thursday closed off one route but a top-four finish in the league, while unlikely, is still possible. If Arsenal do fail to make it, an exit for Aubameyang seems likely.

Despite Arsenal not enjoying a good season, it is still clear to see that the striker is happy whilst at the club. He enjoys great relationships with his teammates and the early signs are very good with Arteta also. The fans love Aubameyang deeply and it is clear to see from his devastation on Thursday night, that he cares deeply about the club too.

Whether Aubameyang stays or goes this summer will be a very key part of Arsenal’s near future and the end of the season could play a key part in the striker’s decision. Will the Arsenal captain stay and fight to take Arsenal back to the top of Europe’s elite? Or will he leave and attempt to achieve his dream of big trophies. Either way, this a story that is sure to have Arsenal fans refreshing their news feed all summer long.

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