Arsenal captain Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is the subject of much speculation at this moment in time, with his future in north London beyond the summer increasingly uncertain.
The Gabon international, who was Arsenal’s record signing in January 2018, has only one more year left on his contract and doesn’t currently appear likely to sign a new one.
Aubameyang himself acknowledged on French television over the weekend that he hasn’t spoken to the club about his contract for several months since the last round of talks failed to yield an agreement. He says Arsenal ‘have the keys’, suggesting he is awaiting an offer he deems acceptable, but has also called the decision he must make ‘possibly the most important’ of his career.
It is a delicate time for Arsenal, financially speaking. Even before the coronavirus crisis took hold, the Gunners were, in the words of senior official Josh Kroenke, attempting to manage a ‘Champions League wage bill’ on a ‘Europa League budget’.
The club has asked players to take a pay cut in recent weeks as revenues begin to dip through a lack of games and it seems unlikely the club will sanction major outlays for the foreseeable future.
Aubameyang’s future could come down to how much a buyer is willing to pay. The player’s goals are extremely valuable to Arsenal and miserly offers below £20m could prompt the Gunners to let him go for free in 2021 if it means the benefits of still having him for one more season.
However, if a buyer coughs up an acceptable amount and Aubameyang does leave, who could replace him at the Emirates Stadium next season and beyond?
Sadly, for Arsenal fans, any ‘replacement’ would likely be a downgrade on the current skipper because he’s that important…
Alexandre Lacazette is part of Arsenal’s leadership group and maybe the most obvious replacement should Aubameyang depart is the previous record signing he ultimately overshadowed.
Lacazette’s own Arsenal future has been the subject of speculation in recent months, yet this turn of events could be the opportunity he finally needs to emerge from the shadows.
The Gunners paid an initial £46.5m in the summer of 2017 for a prolific goalscorer who had just netted 37 times for Lyon the previous season. To date, the Frenchman is yet to hit the 20-goal singe season milestone as an Arsenal player.
Joshua King expressed regret that a late January move to Manchester United did not materialise, suggesting he is ready to leave Bournemouth for a new challenge soon.
The Cherries refused to accept a knock-down fee when United made their mid-season enquiry, but their position has weakened since then. King now only has a year left on his current contract, while possible relegation could see a raft of players leave the club.
King has shown himself to be a capable Premier League goalscorer in the past.
With Edinson Cavani certain to leave Paris Saint-Germain as a free agent ahead of next season there will, and already are, calls for Arsenal to consider signing the Uruguayan.
At 33, it could only ever be a short-term fix to give Arsenal more time to source a longer-term replacement for Aubameyang, but few have scored quite as many goals as Cavani over the last 10 years – his overall club tally since joining Napoli in 2010 stands at 304.
Wage demands make this an expensive ‘free’ signing, which may be off-putting to Arsenal, although Aubameyang being off the wage bill would create some room.
Albeit obviously a very different type of forward, 33-year-old Dries Mertens is a similar prospect to Cavani in that he is an experienced and proven elite level star available as a free agent.
The Belgian was linked with Chelsea in January precisely because of his contract situation, only to ultimately stay with Napoli and realise his ambition of becoming the club’s all-time top scorer – his recent 122nd goal for the club surpassed former teammate Marek Hamsik.
After seven years in Italy, a new challenge could be appealing to Mertens.
Arsenal fans have high hopes for home-grown Eddie Nketiah but it puts a lot of pressure on a largely untested 21-year-old who has only scored five league goals in his senior career to date.
Nketiah was unable to force his way into the Leeds team during a loan in the first half of the season, starting only two Championship games. But he has scored twice in successive FA Cup wins since that deal was cut short and returned to north London in January.
Perhaps tellingly, the youngster also started each of Arsenal’s last three Premier League games before the season was put on hold, indicating that Mikel Arteta sees him in a positive light.
Red Bull Salzburg front-man Hwang Hee-chan got three goals and five assists in the Champions League group stage earlier this season, including a goal and assist in a narrow loss at Anfield.
The South Korean international has seen teammates Erling Haaland and Takumi Minamino move on for bigger clubs in recent months and might fancy his own chances, especially seeing as he is now entering the final year of his current contract.
Hwang has pace to burn that could be an asset to Arsenal in Aubameyang’s absence.
Although some Chelsea fans may beg to differ, Michy Batshuayi is not an objectively bad player. Given a chance he might actually score some goals, as has been the case during half-season loans at Borussia Dortmund and Crystal Palace in the last few years.
That chance is something he has never really had in four years at Chelsea, with all but one of his 16 Premier League appearances in 2019/20 off the bench for 20 minutes or fewer.
Out of contract next year, the Belgian is still only 26 and a change of scenery might be what he needs to unlock the kind of goalscoring form that made him a £31m transfer in the first place in 2016.
Arkadiusz Milik is arguably the best option on the transfer market for Arsenal in terms of someone who is both a proven goalscorer at a good level, still young enough to last more than just a couple of years, and, crucially, realistically available without breaking the bank.
The Poland international recovered from an injury hit couple of years to score 20 goals for Napoli in 2018/19 and has another 12 from 23 appearances in all competition this season.
Arsenal have already been linked and Napoli are rumoured to be willing to have dropped their asking price for a player in the final year of his contract for anyone but Serie A rivals Juventus.
Source : 90min