Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – Wenger’s final roll of the dice
So here we are, just a matter of hours to go until the transfer window closes once again and at the time of writing, Arsenal have secured a deal for Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Aubameyang is currently flying to London to complete his deal (via Sky Sports). Exciting times, but do these moves signal an even bigger one on the horizon? Could it mean that Wenger is to leave at the end of his current contract? I think it does, and I’ll get onto that. But first it’s worth looking at how the Gabon striker will fit in at Arsenal.
Straight up, it’s a peculiar one. A player for Aubameyang’s quality is too good to turn down, to use a cliche, but it’s a cliche for a reason – Arsenal will only be better for having the Dortmund man in their squad. He won the Bundesliga Player of the Year at the end of the 2015-16 season, an award also won by one Kevin De Bruyne, and Aubameyang will walk into Arsenal as the highest paid player and with the same level of expectations at Mesut Özil. But will he walk in the starting XI? That’s the question worth asking.
Yes, Aubameyang will walk into the side but it won’t be in the left-wing position that a lot of journalists are so conveniently choosing in order to get the clicks for their new ‘Arsenal XI’ articles. He hasn’t played there for years and certainly won’t for Arsenal as his ego would confirm. It leaves Arsenal with an issue, it’s fair to say Lacazette won’t be dropped and Arsenal don’t use any formations with a two-striker variant. Will Wenger revert back to his 4-4-2 days of the Invincibles? I doubt it personally, I think there’s much more possibility of a 3-5-2 formation being utilised with Özil in behind Aubameyang and Lacazette, but this again leaves out their other new signing Mkhitaryan – you can see Wenger’s new issue. To use another cliche, it’s a good problem to have, and it is, but Arsenal are already having issues with good players being left out, Olivier Giroud is already struggling for game time and Lacazette isn’t happy even being brought off 20 minutes before the end of each game, so there’s a serious issue that needs solving.
I think the Arsenal’s January business has created an unbalanced squad. It looks to be a great window, but an opportunistic one, not one well planned. As an Arsenal fan I’ll be the first to say that another caveat of this, Giroud leaving on loan to Chelsea (via The Telegraph), would be soul-destroying, heartbreak on the level of Fabregas leaving to Barcelona. Giroud is the sweetheart of Arsenal, and while replacing him with a mercenary type striker in Aubameyang is what most Arsenal fans want, there are some sad repercussions to our hap-hazard spending. One of those repercussions, as I mentioned, is the unbalanced squad and Arsenal are in need of a right winger. We currently only have Iwobi in that position and if we continue to use the 4-3-3 which Wenger seems to prefer, that’s a pretty bleak situation. Young Reiss Nelson is an incredible talent but it’s too soon for him right now.
But the title of the piece, and the one I’m pondering most, is this Wenger’s final roll of the dice? With Mkhitaryan (28), Aubameyang (28) and potentially Jonny Evans (30) (via The Times) looking like signing (sorry for not mentioning you Jonny) it looks like it’s a buck of the trend, perhaps one aided by Mislintat, but it’s buying players in their prime with little regard for sell-on value, something I don’t think Wenger has considered before. But turning down Malcom (via Sky Sports) and signing these three shows that Wenger is finally thinking of ‘now’ again, and I think that is very possibly because this is his last contract with Arsenal. It’s his last era, next season will probably be his curtain call, and these January recruits show Wenger wants to attack on all fronts and have one last go at the Champions League.
By Lucas Arnold (@LucasArnold93)