Standard Sport assesses the big-money candidates to fill the gap at Emirates Stadium
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang | Borussia Dortmund
A tally of 69 goals in his past 78 Bundesliga games tells you just how prolific Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been in the past two-and-a-half seasons. At 28 and with three-and-a-half years left to run on his deal, he is highly valued by current employers Borussia Dortmund .
This morning, German tabloid BILD said it would take a bid of at least €70million for him to leave, under the headline: “Let me go!” That tells you how Aubameyang has fallen out with the club who have helped make him one of the top strikers in Europe.
Since joining in 2013, he’s racked up six hat-tricks but as German football magazine Kicker put it yesterday, he’s now completed another. Peter Stoger became the third different Dortmund coach on Sunday to leave him out for disciplinary reasons in just over a year.
“It was an important team meeting where the injured players were also invited,” explained Stoger after the 0-0 draw with Wolfsburg. “He [Aubameyang] said he’d forgotten about it but we all know that’s not true.”
Already before the Bundesliga restart this weekend, it had not gone down well that his father and two brothers had come to stay at the team hotel in Marbella, where the club were having their training camp.
Then, there was the first occasion this season he was suspended by the club in November. Having turned up to training 20 minutes late and also invited a film crew into the training ground without the club’s permission, the Gabon striker missed the trip to Stuttgart.
One year earlier, then coach Thomas Tuchel suspended him after he went on an unsanctioned trip to Milan.
This latest transgression then is nothing new but the disappointment on Sunday from sporting director Michael Zorc, someone who has placed a lot of faith in the striker, was clear.
“I don’t recognise him anymore,” said Zorc. “I don’t know what goes through his head. Today we had a very contentious conversation. Over the years, I haven’t seen this behaviour from him. He was usually always professional. What happens now is from our point of view intolerable.”
It has always been accepted at Dortmund that Aubameyang has an ostentatious side to him that he likes to express. Whether it’s
celebrating goals with Batman and Spiderman masks or the colourful array of sports cars he rocks up to training in — that’s just “Auba” (right).
The speed he evidently enjoys when driving is something he’s shown on the pitch, too. His frightening acceleration has helped him become a nightmare for Bundesliga defenders, even if his composure can desert him more often than you might think for a striker with such an impressive goal-scoring record.
A move to Real Madrid was Aubameyang’s dream but it became clear last summer that it was not going to
happen. An escape to England may be the best he can hope for now — with Arsenal preparing to bid £35million plus Olivier Giroud, which totals £53m or €60m.
Arsenal’s new head of recruitment Sven Mislintat, formerly of Dortmund, could help facilitate that but it’s well known Arsene Wenger had the chance to sign Aubameyang when he was at St Etienne. He would cost a lot more now than he did then but given the striker’s recent discipline off the field, you wonder if he would be worth the hassle.
Malcom | Bordeaux
Ligue 1 is a talent factory for richer clubs abroad and Malcom is the latest starlet off the production line.
The Brazilian has excited fans up and down France with dazzling performances this season for Bordeaux, the club he joined from boyhood outfit Corinthians in his homeland in January 2016.
In two years in France, Malcom, who turns 21 next month, has gone from promising teenager to one of the most coveted young players in Europe.
Operating primarily on the right wing for Bordeaux, he’s one of the top six or seven players in France when it comes to turning a game in his team’s favour almost entirely on his own.
Blessed with a brilliant left foot, he has good close control, tremendous dribbling ability and has made a speciality out of scoring with spectacular shots from outside the penalty area.
From his right-wing starting position he’s able to cut in on to his preferred left foot and find the net from the most unlikely angles.
If he came to Arsenal, would he be used as a right winger? In France we have yet to see any evidence that he can play anywhere else but he would appear to have the potential to develop into a central playmaker or deep-lying second striker as well.
Slightly built, he’s wiry and quick across the ground and always on the lookout for an opportunity to cut into central areas where he can hurt the defence.
The figures reveal just how important he has been for a Bordeaux side unexpectedly struggling in the bottom-half of the table.
In 17 League starts this season he has scored seven times and added five assists. Heading into their Ligue 1 showdown against Caen tonight, Bordeaux have scored 23 times, so Malcom’s been directly involved in 52 per cent of their goals.
The only League game he missed Bordeaux lost 3-0 at home to mid-table Strasbourg. Therein lies the problem for Arsenal: Malcom’s so important to Bordeaux, they will be desperate not to give him up without a fight.
The club from south-west France were expected to challenge for Europe, yet instead find themselves on the fringes of a relegation battle.
Given how crucial Malcom is, they could be sucked towards the bottom three if they let their star player go this month.
Up until now, Bordeaux president Stephane Martin has put on his very best poker face, insisting the player is going nowhere and refusing to even discuss the possibility of selling Malcom to a rich suitor abroad.
Yet the stories refuse to go away and the feeling in France is that a bid of €40million (£35m) or more would force Martin and his cohorts to do some serious thinking.
For Bordeaux, with the sixth or seventh biggest budget in France, that would be a head-turning sum of money, and might be enough to persuade them to risk playing the second-half of the campaign without their only player worth the entrance fee.
Thomas Lemar | Monaco
Fans who grew familiar with Thomas Lemar at Monaco last season may know him as a left winger but in 2017-18 he’s taken on a different role.
Boss Leonardo Jardim has switched from the 4-4-2 that carried his side to the Ligue 1 title and Champions League semi-finals last year and is now playing 4-2-3-1.
In the new formation Lemar operates as the No10 and has always seen that as his true position. He was outstanding in a wide berth last season, claiming nine goals and 10 assists.
Yet he now looks settled in a central role and has returned to form after recovering from the shoulder injury that sidelined him for November.
The 22-year-old’s habit of finding space between the lines and his combination of goals and assists have marked him out as one of the rare players that can consistently unlock defences and make the difference in the final third. Lemar was close to a £90million move to Arsenal on transfer deadline day but of the big-money players on their radar he is the least likely option this month.
The first barrier to a move is that Monaco sold four members of their title-winning side last summer and would be loath to let another star player go.
Benjamin Mendy, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Bernardo Silva and Kylian Mbappe all left and Monaco may see it as a sign of weakness if another of their prized assets quits when they have already banked so much money from previous sales.
Monaco also need to retain a competitive edge during the second half of the season as they are locked in a three-way battle with Lyon and Marseille for a Champions League spot behind likely champions Paris St Germain.
Losing Lemar would severely hamper their chances of a top-three spot and that is a risk the club’s hierarchy may believe they simply do not need to take right now.
The second issue is the World Cup. Since making his France debut in November 2016, the playmaker has won eight caps and is on course to be a member of the squad that have a genuine chance of lifting the trophy this summer.
In order to avoid risk losing his place on the plane, Lemar may prefer to see out this campaign in Monaco and wait six months before going through the upheaval of settling into a new country and adapting to a different league.
A confident young man, he will believe he can secure the move that he wants at the end of the season so may believe the summer is the right moment for him to open a new chapter in his career.