When asked about the future of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Mikel Arteta insisted yesterday that Arsenal cannot be a club that sells its best player to bring in others. In other words, it cannot be a selling club. He’s right there. It can’t, mainly because it doesn’t have enough cash to be the opposite - a buying club.
It was bad enough when the likes of Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie left to go and win trophies. But at least Arsenal had the means back then to bring in decent replacements, even though they weren’t of the same quality. The situation appears different now. Money is extremely tight. Not only that, Arsenal’s cachet has changed. No longer a Champions League competitor, they simply cannot attract the same kind of talent as they could in the good years under Arsene Wenger.
Sell your best player now and you lose an awful lot. Forget about trying to find someone who can do what Aubameyang does. That’s impossible, because it costs way too much. Instead, you’re looking at potential, something to nurture over the next few years.
In fairness, I advocated that approach the other week as a way of navigating this tricky period. Unable to compete financially with certain Premier League rivals, a different route must be sought that doesn’t cost so much.
That said, if there’s half a chance of persuading Aubameyang to stay, as Arteta hints, the club have got to grab it. Others can be sacrificed, others can be sold, but not this fella. The team is far too reliant on his nose for goal. With Alexandre Lacazette struggling and with the injured Gabriel Martinelli and Eddie Nketiah only just starting out, Aubameyang’s departure would leave a huge hole that any possible replacement couldn’t immediately fill.
However, should the worst come to the worst and he does leave, clever recruitment becomes absolutely vital. The kind of recruitment actually that Wolves have pulled off.
I mean, look at Raul Jimenez, now a top-class centre-forward admired by everyone. I don’t remember much of a scramble for his services whilst at Benfica. But Wolves got him on loan, before paying £30million.
Listening to Arteta yesterday, you could tell how much he admires the joined-up thinking at Molineux.
Under Nuno Espírito Santo, Wolves have gradually grown into a formidable team. Make no mistake, they will present a stiff test for the improving Gunners tomorrow.