FA Cup win may be step to winning Auba’s heart
rteta was effusive in his praise for Aubameyang, undecided on extending his contract with a club that ended eighth in the league, their lowest since 1994-95.Updated: Aug 03, 2020 07:13 IST
Soon after Arsenal had won a record-extending 14th FA Cup title riding on a brace from Gabonese forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to beat Chelsea 2-1 in Saturday’s final at Wembley, Gunners boss Mikel Arteta was asked about the future of his star striker.
Arteta was effusive in his praise for Aubameyang, undecided on extending his contract with a club that ended eighth in the league, their lowest since 1994-95. “Big games require big moments for big players. He has delivered that in the semi-final and he has done it again in the final,” Arteta said, referring to Aubameyang’s double that helped upset Manchester City in the semi-finals.
“He knows what I think about him. I want to build the squad around him. I think he wants to stay and it is just about getting the deal done. These moments will help him to realise that we are on the right path and he is a big part of that. He is loved by everybody at the club. Hopefully he can continue with us.”
Arteta’s comments underline how crucial Aubameyang is to the team whose rebuilding has been entrusted to its 38-year-old former captain, who ended his apprenticeship under Pep Guardiola at City to take over Arsenal in December.
Aubameyang, 31, has showed his goal-scoring qualities in abundance since arriving in Arsenal two years ago. Sunday’s heroics against Frank Lampard’s Chelsea only showed why fans, Arteta and team mates want the striker to somehow be persuaded to stay in Arsenal.
Having won, and scored, a first-half penalty that nullified Christian Pulisic’s early opener for Chelsea, Aubameyang showed no nerves to score past Blues’ goalkeeper Willy Caballero with a delicate chip off his less-favoured left foot midway through the second half. The goal encapsulated another superb season for the former Borussia Dortmund player, who finished 2019/20 with 29 goals across all competitions.
For the sixth straight season, Aubameyang has scored 25 or more goals in all competitions. His total of 70 goals for Arsenal since arriving in January, 2018 is the highest by any player plying his trade in England; Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah is a close second with 68.
Asked about his Arsenal future in a pitch-side interview after the game, the club captain was coy. “I am really not thinking about this. I just want to enjoy with the guys and take the trophy now,” he said. At 31, and into the final year of his contract, there is no doubt a move away from the Emirates Stadium could suit the player. The temptation of moving to a club better equipped to immediately challenge for major trophies must be strong for Aubameyang at this point of his career.
Arteta though has initiated Arsenal’s transition and the early signs have been mostly positive. The FA Cup triumph will give the new manager much-needed leverage with club bosses going into the transfer market. Arsenal, in all likelihood, though will remain a work in progress next season.
It is here that Arteta faces one of the earliest challenges to his managerial career – convincing a top player like Aubameyang to extend his stay despite Arsenal’s transitional phase and the absence of Champions League football next season.
In favour of the Spanish tactician though is a decent platform Arsenal have, to build on next season. Despite their eighth-place league finish, Arsenal will not have to go through the ignominy of no European football for the first time in 25 years.
While the Europa League isn’t where Arsenal want to be, the additional revenue it will bring will still be crucial, especially due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In these circumstances, convincing a player of Aubameyang’s quality on the Arteta project will be an important victory in itself, for the club and manager.
How the striker’s contract situation pans out this summer will also give an early indication of where the club stands ahead of Arteta’s first full season as manager.
The Gunners’ victory over Chelsea brought them their fourth FA Cup title in seven seasons. It is undoubtedly the return to Champions League, a competition they haven’t played in for the last three seasons, and challenging for the Premier League title, which they last won in 2004, which will feature at the top of Arsenal’s short- and mid-term priorities. Ensuring Aubameyang does not move elsewhere and spends his 30s at the club will be a good start to the Arteta era.