Arsenal Must Give Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang a Reason to Stick Around

Arsenal, for all of their quality infrastructure and splendour, are not the powerhouse Premier League force they used to be.

Instead, the Gunners - who 20 years ago were alongside Manchester United as one of the two best sides in England - now cling on to hopes of qualifying for the European B-leagues, rather than challenging for Premier League honours.

It's a far cry from the days of peak Arsene Wenger, Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and co., with current head coach Mikel Arteta's hopes of any kind of success - by that, we mean winning the occasional FA Cup and finishing in the top four - now resting solely on the shoulders of captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

Thierry Henry fired Arsenal to Premier League glory in 2001/02 and 2003/04.

The problem for Arsenal is that Aubameyang is no spring chicken, and his deal at the Emirates Stadium only runs until the end of June 2021. That leaves the club - and the player himself - with a big decision about what to do next.

Put simply, Aubameyang can't afford to wait around for Arsenal to raise the standard of their game. Now 30, he's at the peak of his career and knows that his pace - the one thing that sets him apart from 95% of Premier League players - will only start to diminish as the days goes on.

Aubameyang is also one of the best finishers around, with few as clinical in front of goal as he is. The former Borussia Dortmund striker was the Premier League's leading marksman during the 2018/19 season, sharing the golden boot with Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah, and is comfortably Arsenal's top scorer again this season, with 17 goals in his 26 games to date. He won't be that prolific forever, though.

Unfortunately, for Aubameyang at least, his goals have only helped Arsenal win nine Premier League games to this point, comfortably their worst return in the 21st century. To add insult to injury, the Gunners are already out of Europe - after Olympiacos unceremoniously dumped them out of the Europa League last 32 on their own turf.

Arsenal are already out of the Europa League, losing to Olympiacos in the last 32.

Those failures, though, are nothing to do with Aubameyang's output. The reality for Arsenal is that they don't have a team around the Gabonese star capable of matching his level. Nicolas Pépé has potential, Mesut Özil can produce the odd moment of brilliance and Bernd Leno is excellent between the sticks - but outside of those three players, there's not a great deal of top-class talent at the club's disposal.

Sure, Alexandre Lacazette does a pretty decent job up front, but that's all it is - decent. For Arsenal to get to where they want to - and should - be, they've got to strive for more. The Gunners' defence is lethargic, lacks leadership and lacks energy. Their midfield is easily overrun, bullied and has the structural integrity of a piece of wet paper - granted, Arteta is showing signs of turning that around.

So why would Aubameyang want to stay? What possible hook have Arsenal got to persuade him into staying on, when it's likely he'll be accepting mediocrity?

That's why the club - and Arteta - have got some valuable work to do before now and 26 July. No, barring an absolute miracle, the Gunners aren't going to qualify for next season's Champions League. But they do have the chance to show some tenacity, show some character and show some heart by securing Europa League football once more.

That may not be enough to keep Aubameyang, and that's fine. But the very least that Arsenal will want to do is show their skipper that under Arteta, they intend to right the wrongs of the last decade. A number of tough tests await - Manchester City, Tottenham and Liverpool included - but picking up positive results in at least two of those aforementioned games will be a huge step in the right direction.

No longer can it be accepted that Arsenal did alright for 65-70 minutes, before a mistake or moment of brilliance undercuts everything and renders all that effort irrelevant.

If they lose those games, like they so often do, it's hard to see why Aubameyang wouldn't angle for a move away this summer. The club would be silly to cash in, but if he's going to be at the club, at least give him the man sharper tools to work with.

Source : 90min